Mike Smith is obviously a good football coach, but he’d have probably been a pretty good salesman as well.
The Falcons coach talked about the return of Tony Gonzalez, and it’s clear that he had a strategy for coaxing him back for another season after Gonzalez spent last year saying he was 95 percent sure he was going to retire.
“I told Tony, ‘I’m not going to talk about it after this day. I’m just hoping for that 5 percent, but I’m not going to address it through the season and nor should you’ and he didn’t,” Smith said, via the team’s official website. “He went through the rest of the season. The season ended, not quite what we wanted to get accomplished, and Tony was still intent on not playing anymore.”
But after the season, Smith was willing to slow-play things, to let the sting of an NFC Championship Game loss subside.
When it was time to talk to Gonzalez, he made sure to get on a plane and fly to his home in California, rather than doing business over the phone.
“I said ‘Tony, I’ll tell you what, I don’t want to do this on the phone. Let me hop on a plane, come out and have dinner with you and let’s really talk about this,’ ” Smith said. “So we went out and had dinner and had an opportunity to talk. The chances of him playing were kind of bending a little bit.”
Whether the meeting helped change Gonzalez’s mind about coming back, it showed a commitment on the part of the Falcons, who made bringing him back a specific focus during an offseason which saw them make a few precise moves.