We all heard some interesting chatter about the Atlanta Falcons moving tight end Tony Gonzalez before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.
“If the Falcons can get any better than a fifth round pick for Tony, they have to make that deal.”
“It’s only right to let Tony go play for a contender so he can win a championship in his last season.”
And while both of those paraphrased statements are intriguing, neither of them represent the true reasons why the Falcons held onto Gonzalez through the deadline and the rest of the season.
So I’m going to give you two real reasons why the Falcons didn’t trade the future Hall of Famer, and it has nothing to do with draft picks or cutting off Gonzalez’s chance to finally win a Super Bowl.
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Matt Ryan would die without Gonzalez
Every single piece of this offense is broken except the Ryan-to-Gonzalez connection. The team’s two best wide receivers are injured, the offensive line stinks and the running game is on pace to be historically bad. There’s only one person keeping offenses from killing Matt Ryan, and I don’t mean “killing” in a figurative sense.
That piece is Tony Gonzalez.
Rookie tight end Levine Toilolo isn’t ready to take the throne from Gonzalez just yet, but let’s say the Falcons hypothetically traded Tony G. on Tuesday.
With no reason for linebackers to fear getting burned by passes to the tight end, they blitz Ryan even more than they already do. Additionally, Ryan loses his go-to target for a quick 10-yard gain when the defense blitzes.
There’s no way the Falcons’ quarterback would make it through the rest of this season in one piece. The front office understands that, and as a result, they tried to protect their franchise player in any way they could.
Because they know the offensive line wouldn’t do it.
The Falcons need to sell tickets
The Atlanta Falcons have frequently struggled with getting people to attend games when there’s little incentive to go. In fact, most professional franchises experience that problem when the product on the field isn’t very good.
And with very little excitement on the roster to attract a few extra fans per game, the Falcons knew the storyline of Tony Gonzalez playing his final games would bring some of the loyal following back to the Georgia Dome.
Owner Arthur Blank is a businessman, and every businessman knows you have to squeeze every dime out of every employee, every project, every event. He’s going to get a few extra bucks out of a lot of people in the final four home games of the 2013 season before Gonzalez rides off into the sunset for good.
The Falcons still own the fourth-best passing offense in the league, averaging 300 yards per game. It’s all but guaranteed that the team’s legendary tight end won’t be finishing his season holding the Lombardi Trophy, but he was right to say he wanted to finish his career in Atlanta, and the Falcons were even smarter to retain him.