I wonder what occupies Tony G's mind these days in the space between games? Do you think he ever questioned his choice to ask for a trade? Does he wake up at night wondering what would have happened if he had stayed the course, kept his Chiefs uniform and gutted it out?
TG is a pro and I'm sure he would never talk about such things openly, but given the sequence of events that have occured over the last two seasons, having these thoughts would not surprise many. I think those who it would surprise least of all would be the faithful of Chiefs Nation. Nobody here wanted to see Tony's back on the way out of Arrowhead in any circumstance other than retirement, but as we all know it just wasn't going to end that way.
At the end of the 2008 season (during which time TG was teased with trade possibilities) it would be easy for most to understand Tony's thought process. He was looking at a couple more years of a HOF career that would never culminate in a Super Bowl appearance, much less a victory. Tony is quite possibly the best TE to ever play the game and he wanted the icing on the cake. Understandable. The question now, however, is did he miscalculate?
Back then, it seemed as clear as the sunrise that the Chiefs were a losing team going nowhere. Herm was on his way out and Tony had heard that the Chiefs were talking to several HC options including Todd Haley and Kirk Ferentz. From Tony's perspective, the Chiefs putting in a HC that had no experience had to be an additional nail in the proverbial coffin. Just how long would it take a new bungler like that to turn things around, if indeed it ever happened?
Then, here comes Todd Haley with his chest puffed out telling the players that it's his way or the highway. What? I'm sure Tony (as any employee who is getting a new, tough as nails boss) was thinking, "uh-uh". Not me, I've put my time in and I am not going to go back to all the tote that barge and lift that bale junk that you have to do to prove your worth. I prove my worth everyday around here and drive it home on Sundays. This just ain't gonna happen.
Then, to really add that last straw, Haley wipes the board completely clean. No favoritism for ANYBODY. That means you Mr. Gonzalez. Reserved parking spaces? Those are for the handicapped and owners of the business. I don't see you in either class. Park your car like the rest. Don't like it? Tell your story to Scott Pioli on the way to the dog house.
So, ultimately Tony gets his wish. Trade to the Falcons. An up and comer who is going to get to the Super Bowl shortly, right? Actually, I'll bet Tony didn't care much. He just wanted a chance.
Tony went on to play all 16 games in 2009 for his new team. He continued to set records and played his heart out. Only, the team couldn't quite get there. Tony's 83 receptions for 867 yards and 6 TDs just wasn't quite enough, the Falcons finished 9-7 out of the playoff picture.
Looking back at the Chiefs season at that point probably didn't do much to make Tony think he had made any kind of mistake. In fact, it looked like it was the Chiefs that had made the mistake.
I'm betting that about that time, Tony was telling himself, "everything is on track". "We'll get'em next season and finally that Super Bowl game will have my name in it". The 2009 Chiefs sure didn't do anything to give him pause.
Now we get to the 2010 season. The Falcons are riding high and everything looks like the plan is working--or does it? Tony hasn't had the same kind of year that he normally puts together. Through 15 games, Tony only has 63 receptions for 603 yards and 5 TDs. As recently as last weekend, Tony was shut down by the Saints defense. The Falcons are the number one seed in the NFC with a 12-3 record, but that New Orleans game was a wake up call. Are the Falcons losing a little steam heading into the playoffs? Did they benefit from an easy schedule to get those 12 wins? Do they have the hutzpah to make that Super Bowl run that keeps Tony playing the game?
Then there is this. The 2010 Kansas City Chiefs made the biggest one year turn around in team history. They are coming to the end of the season hitting on all cylinders (as Stevechiefs recently posted about), healthy and playing better with each passing week. They have some momentum. Fans are waiting in line to buy playoff tickets and once again, Arrowhead will feel Chiefs WILL in a home playoff game.
Some fans will feel a small dark void in that game because of the hole in their heart where number 88 used to reside. In many ways, Tony was the face of the Chiefs for a long time. He was a testament to hard work and resilience during the morass of dark, dark times. Chiefs fans will always love Tony for that. And I think that most wish him well.
You just have to wonder though, what would have happened had Tony stayed the course. Would the Chiefs have won a few of those road loses this year? Would we have beaten Mr. Football in his own house (the defense certainly played well enough)? Would we have made those third downs more often and therefore not allowed that Houston comeback win? Would San Diego's defense been able to pin back their ears and trash Brodie Croyle if TG had his say? All unanswerable questions. Have any of them occured to Tony?
The greatest irony of it all, may still come to pass. If the Chiefs somehow manage to make it to the Super Bowl this season and the Falcons do not, you have to think that Tony's heart may break. Tony loved the Chiefs as much as the Chiefs loved him. The worst case scenario may just be the Chiefs vs. the Falcons in the Super Bowl. No matter the final score in that game, there would be winners and losers on both sides because a KC icon now plays for the enemy.
KC loves you Tony. Good luck the rest of the way. Just beware the Chiefs if they play in February. I don't think you'll have a chance.