What’s more important at the end of the career? Your individual stats or the amount of postseason wins and possibly titles attached to your name? Tony Gonzalez, the greatest tight end in the the history of the NFL, retires with just one of these things.
There’s no doubt Gonzalez can keep on playing for a year, two, or maybe more. After 16 season in the NFL, the soon to be 37-year old player caught 93 passes for 930 yards during the 13-3 season with the Falcons, and finally got himself a playoff win after the five previous unsuccessful attempts. He was a big reason Matt Ryan emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the league this season, and why the Falcons finished with the best record in the NFC.
Some might see this as a vote of non-confidence in the team’s chance to succeed next season after reaching the NFC Championship game for the first time in 14 years. But it’s probably the call of his own body, saying its enough. Gonzalez has more touchdown receptions and reception yards than any other TE in the history of the NFL. Some might say he was a big part of revolutionizing the position, as it moved from blocker into someone who’s primary task on the field is being a receiver often being positioned in the slot instead of being an extension of the offensive line.
At some point, your body and your mind just quit on you, before you’ve won everything you wanted. Gonzalez did manage to squeeze in a playoff win, one of the few things missing from his resume. He just couldn’t see himself finding the strength to prepare for another season, for the highs and lows of chasing a spot in the postseason and ultimately chasing a Super Bowl ring, that looked closer than ever this season. Maybe reaching this far and not making it was the deciding line: If not now, than never. Gonzalez chose never, and decides to retire after a glorious career that could have gone on a little longer.
But maybe this is how it should be – leaving while he’s still one of the premier players in his position, some would argue he’s still the best. It might be better than retiring while chasing rings and titles, unable to honor your better days, not being an every down player anymore, just waiting for everything to breakdown and call it quits. Gonzalez chose the proud way to step down from the NFL. Too bad he doesn’t have any titles to take with him.