Be careful what you wish for.
Chiefs fans wanted change. They wanted the broom to sweep through Arrowhead Stadium and push out all that was old.
They wanted new.
They got it. Be careful what you wish for.
The new regime of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley made their second biggest move of the off-season on Thursday when they dealt 10-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta for the Falcons second-round choice in the 2010 NFL Draft. Only dealing a second-round pick for QB Matt Cassel rivals what went down with Gonzalez.
The broom is sweeping its way through the Chiefs and now many of those fans who wanted change are not happy. Gonzalez is a fan favorite and he’s now gone, off to finish his career with a team that has a bird on its helmet rather than an arrowhead.
What comes with change is pain. This one wasn’t easy for anybody to choke down, even Gonzalez who wanted desperately to have a chance to be part of a winning team again. Bittersweet is the word most often used.
There are a lot of different windows into the reactions to this deal.
Fans make an emotional investment in their favorite teams and players. Remember fan is from the fanatical, defined as irrationally enthusiastic; excessively zealous.
And darn pissed off that No. 88 was sent packing. There was an investment made in Gonzalez over the last 12 years. He was gifted athletically, handled himself with class, gave back to the community and did nothing but represent the Chiefs and Kansas City in the best manner possible.
Meet his mother and his grandmother and it’s not hard to discover why Gonzalez came to Kansas City in 1997 as a 21-year old and never found trouble. He went out, he enjoyed nightlife, he embraced what Kansas City is, but he never showed up on the police blotter, or doing a perp walk, or calling somebody in the middle of the night for bail money.
As a person and player, Gonzalez is about as good as it gets and Chiefs fans found that out over the years. It’s testimony to his profile that all this came despite the fact he was not part of a single victory in the playoffs, let alone a championship. In fact, in Gonzalez’s 12 seasons with the Chiefs, they had a 95-100 record in the regular season and playoffs.
Fans never blamed Gonzalez, because he was always working so hard and achieving individually where there was no success as a group.
Gonzalez is 33 years old. He’s played 12 seasons and missed just a single two games to injury; in the 1999 season opener as he was getting over a pre-season knee injury and in 2006 against Oakland after a shoulder injury the week before against Miami.
Who knows how much more tread there is on his tires? It’s hard to tell. Gonzalez himself said he would probably play one more year if he stayed in Kansas City. He’s already saying two or three more years with the move to Atlanta. That could very well happen for him, although he will now play at least nine games a year on artificial turf at home in Atlanta and on the road in New Orleans. Both are domes, with turf laid over cement floors. In the last three years with the Chiefs, Gonzalez played nine games on fake grass.
Gonzalez does a wonderful job of taking care of himself; he’s never out of shape. But the joints do creak just a bit more. That’s why he only practiced once during two-a-day training camp practices over the last few years.
The fact is this: he’s close to the end of his career. If he followed through and retired after the ’09 season, the Chiefs would have nothing but memories of him for the 2010 season.
Now, they’ll have a player. Whether that person comes to them next year in the second round, or this weekend if the bargaining power of that choice makes a deal possible now, Tony G. brought something back.
It’s a tight rope all professional teams walk with their older players. Generally, when a player loses “it”, the end comes quickly and everybody sees it. Better to take an older player who may still have skills and make a deal, than wait and get stuck with an untradeable veteran.
For Pioli/Haley, this was a rational decision. They now have to make it work by hitting a home run on the player that Gonzalez brings them.
Wouldn’t keeping Gonzalez help Cassel and Haley’s new offense? Sure. But how does that lead to victories?
Last year the Chiefs made the decision not to deal Gonzalez at the trading deadline in October. At that time, the best offer they had was a third-round choice. So an unhappy tight end stayed and he went on to have another big season.
But the Chiefs still won just one game after the deal wasn’t made. If you think Cassel is a better quarterback than Tyler Thigpen well … most people wouldn’t argue that point. But remember, the Chiefs had a losing record during the time Gonzalez wore the red uniform, no matter the quarterback.
That’s not the fault of Gonzalez, although he must share the blame, just as he gets credit for being the best modern-day tight end in the game. It’s just evidence that you don’t build teams or an offense around a tight end. When the Vermeil Flying Circus offense was establishing new franchise and in some cases league records for production, it wasn’t built on Trent Green to Tony Gonzalez. It was built on Priest Holmes and his ability as a runner and receiver.
As we saw in the second half of the ’08 season, having Gonzalez on the roster meant nothing when it came to victories. Why should ’09 be any different?
Personally, I will miss having Tony Gonzalez around. He’s a good man. He treats people well, even those little people who can’t really do anything for him. He was a classy person and as a tight end, he was as good as I’ve ever seen. Gonzalez broke all of Shannon Sharpe’s career tight end records. I don’t see Sharpe in his class. I’ve seen every one of his catches, including my favorite, up in Denver when he caught the ball while sitting on the field after being knocked down. This wasn’t some dump pass; this was 15-20 yards down the field, on the sidelines.
He will one day have a bust in Canton, Ohio.
SO WHAT HAPPENS AT TIGHT END NOW
Expect the Chiefs to select a tight end at some point during the 2009 NFL Draft.
Right now, the most experienced tight end on the roster is five-year journeyman Sean Ryan, who was signed just this week. Attention will fall on second-year man Brad Cottam, a third-round draft choice from last year who got a lot of playing time, but not a lot of opportunities to catch the ball.
“He was a player that was of interest to us at the time,” Haley said of scouting Cottam last year when the head coach was in Arizona. “Brad has been in here; he’s been working hard and doing all the things being asked of him. Like all the other guys I’m encouraged by what he’s doing right now in the off-season conditioning program.”
TURNS OUT CARL WAS RIGHT
The website profootballtalk.com dug up a quote from Gonzalez last October, when the Chiefs did not pull the trigger on a deal before the trading deadline.
An angry Gonzalez said: “I know teams offered a third and in the end, Carl (Peterson) made the asking price a second,” Gonzalez said.Β “I’m very disappointed that he didn’t go through with it after he told me he was going to try to make it happen. Β I’ve been around this league a long time, it’s a business.Β There’s nothing I can do about it.Β I was pissed off about it but I’ll get over it.”
Turns out Carl was right, Gonzalez was worth a second. Oh, I know that makes some people unhappy.
THE GOOSE 100
Nobody prepares for the NFL Draft each year in the media like Dallas Morning News pro football writer Rick Gosselin. He does not rely on other media types for his information. Goose calls the decision makers and they call him back. Sometimes, they are trying to get information out of him.
Every year, Goose does his top 100 players. He released the list Thursday and it will be interesting to see how quickly some of the so-called draft experts adjust their top 100s based on what Gosselin has put together. Don’t laugh; it’s happened.
Under his evaluation, his top five are: LB Aaron Curry, WR Michael Crabtree, OT Jason Smith, QB Matthew Stafford and WR Jeremy Maclin. That doesn’t mean that’s how they will be selected in the first round. It’s a ranking of their potential in the pros.
If the league went strictly by Goose’s board, the Chiefs would grab Jason Smith and DE Lawrence Sidbury with their first two picks.
VIKINGS CONTINUE INVESTIGATION OF FLORIDA WR PERCY HARVIN
These are not good times for Florida receiver-returner Percy Harvin. There are medical questions surrounding him and his history of foot and ankle injuries. On top of that, FOXSports.com reported this week that Harvin tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine.
That’s why at least three NFL teams were in Gainesville, Florida this week to speak with Harvin. That included Minnesota. The Vikings didn’t send a scout or a personnel-type. They sent head coach Brad Childress to meet with Harvin.
Depending on what Childress heard may determine just what the Vikings go after Harvin with their first-round pick at No. 2.
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT IN THE NFL (other than Tony G.)
EAGLES – signed TE Eugene Bright.
PANTHERS - worked out a contract extension with QB Jake Delhomme worth $42.5 million/$20 million in guaranteed money.
PATRIOTS - re-signed DL Kenny Smith.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on April 24, 1961 in Chicago was Chiefs assistant head coach Maurice Carthon. He played eight seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants and Indianapolis, appearing in 123 games and totaling 1,695 rushing/receiving yards. Carthon joined the Chiefs from the coaching staff of the Arizona Cardinals.
Born on April 24, 1942 in Opelousas, Louisiana was Remi Prudhomme, who played two seasons with the Chiefs (1968-69) and was part of the team that beat Minnesota in Super Bowl IV. He appeared in 28 games at guard for the Chiefs that season.
On April 24, 1958, FB Larry Moriarity was born in Santa Barbara, California. He joined the Chiefs in 1986 and played three seasons (1986-88), appearing in 31 games with eight starts. He ran 85 times for 284 yards and caught 23 passes for 128 yards and a TD.
And on April 24, 1959, DE Bob Hamm was born in Kansas City. He played in the 1985 season with the Chiefs, appearing in 31 games.