(EDITOR’S NOTE) To access the Carl Peterson interview, fast-forward to 1:04:40 of the above attachment)
When Tony Gonzalez was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month he became the only tight end in NFL history to reach Canton in his first year of eligibility.
John Mackey didn’t do it. Mike Ditka didn’t do it. And Kellen Winslow didn’t do it.
So that begs the question: Does that mean that Gonzalez – who has more career catches for more yards than any tight end in NFL history – is the greatest tight end ever?
“Without question,” answered former Kansas City president and general manager Carl Peterson on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
Of course, Peterson’s not exactly an impartial judge. He’s the guy who drafted Gonzalez in 1997, and he’s the guy who watched him turn into a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro in Kansas City. He’s also the guy who, in 2008, resisted Gonzalez’s pleas to be traded.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen one better,” said Peterson. “There have been some exceptional ones. There are a couple young guys (today). There’s a guy in Kansas City right now (Travis Kelce) who’s certainly on his way to a Pro (Football ) Hall-of-Fame career if he continues. But Tony did it all. And what he couldn’t do well … if you want to say that … he learned how to do it.”
Peterson was talking about blocking. There's no doubt how good … no, sensational … he was as a receiver. He has more career catches than any NFL player not named Jerry Rice. He's sixth in career reception yardage. He’s eighth in career receiving touchdowns. And he was the first tight end ever to have a 100-catch season.
But you know all that. What you don’t know, said Peterson, is how hard Gonzalez worked at becoming an accomplished blocker.
“We had Jason Dunn as our backup tight end … a marvelous blocker” said Peterson. “And Tony was not a guy who was going to knock you off the ball. But he wanted to make a block if he was asked to do that.
“We had three or four 1,000-yard rushers for five, six years, and he was a big part of that because he could position just anybody with his athleticism and seal people off. But he wanted to do that. He wanted to be the best on every snap.
“So, in my mind, yes, without question. I don’t think there’s a better tight end. I think he’s well deserving of that first ballot, but I know how hard that is to get done. I’m just thrilled and proud of him."