Gonzalez vs. Gates: Best TE in the League
by Max - 10/16/2007
With his two touchdown catches last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez passed Shannon Sharpe for most career touchdown receptions by a tight end in NFL history. Sharpe still holds the record for most career receptions but do not be surprised if Gonzalez surpasses that as well before his career is over. The following will examine some of his career highlights, including his rise back to the top.
The tight end is one of the most underappreciated positions in the NFL. They are near the bottom of the pay rate by position with quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, left tackles, linebackers, defensive ends, and defensive backs traditionally receiving higher-paying contracts. That being said, tight end is one of the most difficult positions to play because you must be able to run block, pass block, and catch the football as well. Very few positions demand this much ability and often times teams separate their tight ends with one focusing in on blocking and another one coming into the game when the team plans on throwing the football.
Tony Gonzalez is definitely not in a platoon with anyone else on the team, as he is truly an every down player that gets the job done both blocking and receiving. He is an outstanding athlete that played two sports while attending the University of California-Berkley. Yes, I said two sports, as he was a member of the Bears basketball team that reached the Sweet 16 in 1997. He also had some interest from the Miami Heat a couple of years ago, but smartly realized that being 6'5" in the NBA is a far cry from being 6'5" in the NFL. He was drafted No. 13 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997 and should remain a Chief from his entire career after recently signing a five-year extension.
After getting his feet wet, he had dominated the position from the start, being named to the Pro Bowl eight times in his career. Since he has yet to play with a top-notch No. 1 receiver he has always been the go-to guy for KC when it came to passing game. He owns numerous team records such as career receptions, career reception yardage, and consecutive games with a reception. Many believed that he would dominate the position from the start of his career to the end, but something happened to that vision along the way.
A similar type of player to Gonzalez emerged out of San Diego. Antonio Gates came into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State. Gates had a similar background to that of Gonzalez in that he played college basketball at Kent State, But what separates them is that Gates did not play college football. In fact, he did not play any organized football since he senior year of high school back in Detroit. Basketball was always Gates first love and after he helped lead the Flashes to the Elite Eight, he sought out the NBA combine to see if he could make it into the league. But much like Gonzalez, 6'4" in the NBA is not the same as 6'4" in the NFL and he was told he would be a tweener and struggle to make it in the league.
His size seemed perfect for the NFL and over 2/3 of the league teams inquired about him. The first team he worked out for was the Chargers and they quickly realized his potential and signed him. The rest is history, as he broke out in 2004 and became the favorite target of QB Drew Brees the next two seasons. He set a single-season record for touchdown receptions by a tight end and has represented the AFC in the Pro Bowl the last three seasons. In 2005 he signed a new six-year deal and people believed that he would be the best tight end in the game for years to come.
But something went screwy along the way. The Chargers shipped Drew Brees off to New Orleans to allow high draft pick Phillip Rivers to assume control. This was the first of many blunders made by General Manager A.J. Smith and it is obvious why this franchise has yet to win a championship. The coaching staff decided it would be best to take the game out of the hands of the young quarterback and instead keep giving it to old reliable LaDainian Tomlinson. While LT had a record-setting season, Gates saw his numbers drop off and Rivers did not look for him with the same regularity that Brees did. Because of that Gonzalez was able to close the gap and expect these two to battle for supremacy the next couple of seasons.
Both teams still have outstanding running backs and no-name wide receivers. That makes the TE the most viable option on the team when it comes to throwing the football downfield. These are the two main threats when it comes to fantasy football and both are always worth a high-round draft choice. So who will come out on top in the future? My guess is the team with the better quarterback, which will likely be decided between Phillip Rivers and Brodie Croyle. Both are talented, but Gates is young and should be able to pass all of the tight end records before it is all said and done.
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