Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez admits there were days when his team's current rebuilding process enraged him. He winced at the lack of signings during the unrestricted free-agent period. He held his tongue as management systematically bounced aging veterans out the door. He also knew that starting over with a young team, after 11 years in the NFL, was not something that excited him. The last thing he wanted was to end a Hall of Fame career with little or no shot at another playoff appearance.
But the 32-year-old Gonzalez was a different man when the Chiefs concluded a minicamp last weekend, one who was undeniably brimming with optimism. He wasn't griping or moping, and he definitely wasn't demanding a trade to a team with championship potential. He'd decided to do what professionals do -- which is worry about the things he actually can control -- and that philosophy has made life much easier for him to handle these days.
There's no question it's a struggle to be standing in Gonzalez's shoes. Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, a perennial Pro Bowler like Gonzalez, is facing a similar rebuilding process with his franchise, and it's already clear he wants no part of it. "You really do deal with this stuff in two ways," Gonzalez said. "First you get pissed off and you feel frustrated. It's tough because I'm not getting any younger and I want to win right now. But then I calmed down and started to accept it. It really was the only thing I could do."
-Jeffri Chadiha, ESPN.com
NFL Live's Trey Wingo, Eric Allen, and Mike Golic recently discussed Chadiha's article, trying to find out who has it worse.
Wingo: "Who do you think has it worse, is it Tony Gonzalez of Kansas City or Jason Taylor in Miami? Neither of these situations are good."
Allen: "Neither one good, but Jason Taylor has it to a point where he's dealing with a guy who's been in the National Football League a long, long time, and pretty soon coach Parcells is going to lay down the hammer on this guy and make him make a decision..."
Golic: "I'm going to say on the field, I think it's Gonzalez. I think Jason Taylor has a chance on every play to go make a play as a defensive end. Tony Gonzalez, on offense, he may be running routes seeing if his quarterback's on his back, or scrambling around somewhere, or trying to block somebody. Who knows what's going to happen on the field with Gonzalez? Neither are in a good position, but I think Gonzalez has it worse."
Jason Taylor is a great player and a probable Hall of Famer, but that's where the comparisons should stop. To be fair, Chadiha, Allen, and Golic all commended Gonzalez for the way he's handled his situation in Kansas City. In the age of holdouts, trade demands, and little or no loyalty, it's nice to see a player receive publicity for doing things the right way. But I still take issue with some of the things said on ESPN.
It's true, Gonzalez will go down as one of the all-time greats to wear a Chiefs jersey, and probably the greatest tight end to ever play the game, and, chances are, retire without ever playing in or winning a Superbowl. Winning the Super Bowl is the goal of every NFL player, but the realization of few. I, for one, am tired of mediocre players being held in too high a regard because they have a ring, and great players being looked at as lesser for not.
Was Jay Novacek an outstanding tight end with the Dallas Cowboys? Yes, and he has rings to prove it, but he wasn't half the player Gonzalez is. Was Trent Dilfer better than Dan Marino, Warren Moon, or Jim Kelly? Absolutely not. Football is a team sport, and winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate prize, but only one team can win it every year. That shouldn't tarnish Tony Gonzalez's legacy.
By insinuating that Gonzalez should be dissatisfied about his situation with the Chiefs, did the boys from ESPN overlook the bigger picture? Perhaps. The Kansas City Chiefs are definitely a young team in transition. They have a load of rookies on the squad, but they also have a load of talent, athleticism, and enthusiasm.
Two years ago, Brett Favre called the young Green Bay Packers the most talented team he's ever been on. Many scoffed at that remark, as the Packers finished a mediocre 8-8, but rallied last season, posting an 11-5 record and losing in the NFC Championship game. Do you know what the Packers record was in 2005? 4-12. Sound familiar?
I'm not saying the Chiefs are going to make a Packer-like turnaround over the next two seasons, but I am saying it's a possibility, and that Tony Gonzalez having a chance to play meaningful playoff football in Kansas City isn't a preposterous notion.
Furthermore, Golic talked about how Gonzalez might not have the chance to make plays in Kansas City because of a porous offensive line and an unproven quarterback. Obviously, Golic didn't pay attention to what Gonzalez did last year with even less consistency at quarterback, a worse offensive line, and no Larry Johnson. He put up over 1,000 yards receiving and caught 99 passes. I'd say Gonzalez had the opportunity, and will continue to have the opportunity to make plays.
Maybe the NFL Live crew should stick to what they know: Chad Johnson, the Dallas Cowboys, and Spygate.
In essence, Kansas City is where Baltimore was entering the 2002 season, only with one difference: Unlike the Ravens of six years ago, Kansas City hasn't announced that it doesn't expect to compete for a division title or that it is rebuilding from the bottom up.
In fact, I'm still waiting for someone from the Chiefs to mention the word "rebuilding," even though that's exactly what's going on.
"More than anything else, we're in a transition phase," said coach Herman Edwards.
I don't get it...
I don't know if the Chiefs finish last in the AFC West, but I do know they don't finish first. Look, they had to get worse before they got better, and last year they bottomed out with a 4-12 finish.
Now they are doing the right thing by going young, fast and strong.
That's smart. San Francisco did it in 2000 when, following its first losing season since 1982, it started a raft of draft picks. The 49ers finished 6-10, but their rookies gained invaluable experience.
A year later they were in the playoffs.
The same thing could happen in Kansas City if the Chiefs are allowed to grow. That's where the patience comes in. If Chiefs fans don't know what they're in for, at least the team's chairman of the board should.
-Clark Judge, CBSSports.com
Judge seems to be on board with the Chiefs' youth movement, but he has a problem with the lack of the term "rebuilding." What does he want the Chiefs front office to do? Come out and say "Okay Chiefs fans, we're going to really stink this year, but we've got a bunch of young players, and you should come out and see us anyways!"
Herm Edwards admits the team is in a transition period, and the signs surrounding Arrowhead read "Laying the Foundation," so it's obvious the Chiefs accept the fact they're young and will experience growing pains. I think it's great that they're still trying to promote a culture of winning. No one wants to see a losing team, even if they're young.
Chiefs fans may have a reputation for being overly optimistic, but I don't think you'll find too many holding out hopes for a Super Bowl victory this season. The fans know, as well as the organization, that the team is in transition.
Like I've already stated, the Chiefs are young, but they're going to be competitive. Every team in the AFC West is playing a young quarterback, and is relying on young talent to step up and make a difference. Plenty can be said for experience in this league, but there is also something to be said for speed, talent, and competitive drive, three things the Chiefs are loaded with at the moment.
Cliff Notes: Veterans and youth
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