By Matthew Asher
The NFL’s 4 p.m. trading deadline came and went on Tuesday. And when the dust settled, Tony Gonzalez remained an Atlanta Falcon for his 17th and what most people believe will be his final season in the NFL.
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter spoke briefly about the decision to keep Gonzalez. “As I said earlier in the year, we have to enjoy Tony while we can because this is it,” Koetter said. With Atlanta one or maybe two losses away from playoff elimination, it was unclear if Atlanta would send Tony to a team with a chance at winning the Super Bowl. The thought being Atlanta would be able to trade Gonzalez in order to either address some immediate roster issues or to start stockpiling draft picks for the 2014 NFL Draft.
It might have been nice to send Gonzalez back to the team that drafted him, the surprising and only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs. However, mid-season trades are something this Atlanta Falcons regime is not a fan of doing. “For me, that talk doesn’t exist,” Koetter said. “It’s a moot point … Tony is just such a solidifying player. He comes to work. He prepares the same every week. He does his job.”
Before the loss to Arizona this past week, it seemed entirely possible for Atlanta to claw their way back to .500 before returning home to take on the current NFC-leading, 7-1 Seattle Seahawks. But after the loss to the Cardinals, one in which Gonzalez described as “devastating,” it would appear as though this may be the first season in the Mike Smith era that Atlanta does not post a winning record.
With New Orleans improving to 6-1, the Saints hold a commanding lead in the NFC South. Two games behind them are Atlanta’s next opponent, the 4-3 Carolina Panthers. With only nine games to go in the season, it seems highly unlikely that Atlanta can overcome a five-game deficit (New Orleans currently owns the tiebreaker with their Week 1 victory over Atlanta) and repeat as divisional champions.
Before the trade deadline had passed, Gonzalez took all of the possible trade rumors like the class-act player he’s been for his entire career. “If that’s what they want to do and that’s in the best interest of the team, then that’s up to them,” Tony said before learning his eventual fate. “It isn’t going to come from me. I’m not the one asking for a trade. I love Atlanta. I love playing with these guys.”
It’s sad that Gonzalez, an obvious first-ballot NFL Hall of Fame player if there ever was one, is likely to finish his professional career without even playing in one Super Bowl and only winning one playoff game, despite playing on three different 13-3 teams in his career.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.