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Tony Gonzalez: Matt Ryan is excellent, but not elite


A couple of years back, the question of whether or not Eli Manning was an elite quarterback became an offseason discussion topic.

The question of whether or not that modifier applies to another quarterback has been raised by the quarterback’s recently retired tight end. ESPN the Magazine has an upcoming interview with Tony Gonzalez that features Gonzalez placing Ryan in a category just below elite.

“Matt’s an excellent quarterback. But he’s not elite. He’s this close. He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do,” Gonzalez said, via NFL Live on ESPN.

The line between the adjectives we use to describe a quarterback’s place are hard to define, although that doesn’t make it easier to put up much of an argument with Gonzalez’s assessment. Ryan remained a fairly effective quarterback in 2013 while dealing with injured receivers and a bad offensive line and is solidly in the top half of quarterbacks in the NFL, but winning big in the playoffs is usually a prerequisite for getting the elite label.

In the interview, Gonzalez also suggests at one point that he’d be open to a possible return next season, if the Falcons are 9-2 in November. If Ryan makes the improvement that Gonzalez believes he needs, the Falcons would be better positioned to be such a team whether or not Gonzalez decides to strap their helmet back on in 2014.

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95 Responses to “Tony Gonzalez: Matt Ryan is excellent, but not elite”
  1. green41563 says: Feb 6, 2014 4:49 PM

    He’s correct.

  2. that's the best linebacker i've seen since Joe Montana says: Feb 6, 2014 4:51 PM

    If he’s this close, then how far away is Colin Kaepernick?

  3. rr2000k says: Feb 6, 2014 4:51 PM

    1 playoff win….

  4. denverwally says: Feb 6, 2014 4:52 PM

    Tony – Tom Brady is calling, wants you paired with Gronk to make an unstoppable offense. C’mon up to New England, they are ready for another Super Bowl trophy!

  5. fishfiletkray says: Feb 6, 2014 4:52 PM

    His contract says he’s elite.

  6. tdubdizzle says: Feb 6, 2014 4:53 PM

    I think Tonys being nice when he says he’s not there YET. Matt Ryan just can’t finish big games. Not elite. Poor man’s Peyton Manning.

  7. newenglandsports11 says: Feb 6, 2014 4:54 PM

    Annndddd here comes two week of Ron Jaworski and Merrill Hoge arguing on ESPN of whether this is true or not.

  8. concro123 says: Feb 6, 2014 4:54 PM

    The only elite QBs are Brady, Peyton, Brees, and Rodgers. Ryan is right on the edge though.

  9. nathanielflor says: Feb 6, 2014 4:54 PM

    Welcome to New England?

  10. chad504boy says: Feb 6, 2014 4:55 PM

    Tony’s agent tried to get the Seahawks to sign Tony to a 1 day contract at halftime during the Super Bowl.

  11. jbaxt says: Feb 6, 2014 4:55 PM

    Awesome, so he will re-sign with KC.

  12. 26predator says: Feb 6, 2014 4:56 PM

    And the problem with his statement is?

  13. kneelbeforesod says: Feb 6, 2014 4:56 PM

    So much for his commitment to the Falcons.

  14. slick50ks says: Feb 6, 2014 4:57 PM

    May as well come back to KC.

  15. Big Ant TV says: Feb 6, 2014 4:58 PM

    whoa didnt he say he was done?? hmm a hired gun/brett favre of TE’s now huh?

  16. zenrooster says: Feb 6, 2014 5:00 PM

    Seahawks drop Zach Miller, pick up Tony G!!!!!!

    Go Hawks!

  17. ravenswhat says: Feb 6, 2014 5:00 PM

    Preaching to the choir there tony. Anyone who has seen matty iced playoff games knew this already.

  18. beardinals says: Feb 6, 2014 5:00 PM

    Is he the next Favre? Please, just retire, or don’t.

  19. chargerdillon says: Feb 6, 2014 5:02 PM

    Truth hurts for Matt

    But it might make him a better player in the long run to hear the truth

  20. nflofficeadmin says: Feb 6, 2014 5:05 PM

    Strap the helmet on along with that ill 1992 facemask.

  21. jayhawk777 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:05 PM

    Kaepernick will never become elite.

    He has a hitch in his delivery and doesn’t have
    the innate ability to feel pressure and
    doesn’t understand how to gothrough
    his progressions without becoming skittish… He’s a 1 reaf QB and then run.

    A dynamic runner but a poor decision maker.

    See the interceptions in the NFCCG.

    you have those innate abilities or you don’t.

    Kaep doesn’t and why SF won’t win a SB playing in the now
    stacked NFCW.

  22. seahawkfan4evr says: Feb 6, 2014 5:07 PM

    Come to Seattle

  23. sikoix says: Feb 6, 2014 5:08 PM

    In the age of parity, it’s nearly impossible to pick out which team will be getting a ring (especially this many months before the season begins, or the draft even happens). It is a more sure bet to just assume that the Seahawks and Broncos will not be winning the next Super Bowl, but beyond that it’s a crap shoot.

  24. starfan79 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:12 PM

    Matt Ryan = Tony Romo.. Im a Dallas fan but I see these two as the same guy with a little differnt ability. Both are overpaid and both so far can not win in the big games.

  25. guachosporlife says: Feb 6, 2014 5:14 PM

    It’s true. I remember Ryan was supposed to be the anti-Romo. The QB that is the perfect NFL mold. Ryan, along with Bradford are two of the most overrated QBs out there.

  26. dfalcon3522 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:15 PM

    someone please correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure Tony G signed a 2 yr contract with the Falcons so for those in KC & NE calling for him to come to town may as well forget it unless the Falcons cut him. I’m not sure how that works but I think he is under contract with the Falcons for the 2014 season.

  27. dcpatfan says: Feb 6, 2014 5:16 PM

    the only Elite qb left in the NFL is TB12

  28. meatcarroll says: Feb 6, 2014 5:16 PM

    I don’t really know where Ratt Myan can really improve to become elite. He generally makes good decisions and can eviscerate secondaries with time and weapons. It seems what’s holding him back is his lack of elite physical tools, and I don’t know how he could improve there. He can’t just magically improve his arm strength and mobility.

  29. meatcarroll says: Feb 6, 2014 5:16 PM

    I don’t really know where Ratt Myan can really improve to become elite. He generally makes good decisions and can eviscerate secondaries with time and weapons. It seems what’s holding him back is his lack of elite physical tools, and I don’t know how he could improve there. He can’t just magically improve his arm strength and mobility.

  30. jollyjoker2 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:17 PM

    an interview to state the obvious…who would’ve thunk.

  31. jgor44 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:18 PM

    Tony G has never been on a team with an elite quarterback. Doesn’t the saying “you wouldn’t know it if you’ve never had it” apply here? Not saying Tony doesn’t know football…just challenging the statement.

  32. dalcow4 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:32 PM

    Ryan missed it by *that* much,

    Agent Smart

  33. realfootballfan says: Feb 6, 2014 5:35 PM

    Those “elite” QBs have been losing Super Bowls and championship games since 2010. I think I’ll take my chances with good and a great team surrounding him over “elite.”

  34. ianwetpantscom says: Feb 6, 2014 5:38 PM

    How many playoff games has Matty “Ice” Ryan won??


  35. vegaskid21 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:40 PM

    We’ll since Joe Flacco considers himself elite, I always thought Ryan was a little better. I must be wrong.

  36. donnymacjack says: Feb 6, 2014 5:40 PM

    “If he’s this close, then how far away is Colin Kaepernick?”

    Read between the lines…

    | Kaep |

  37. chawk12thman says: Feb 6, 2014 5:41 PM

    This is the first time I have heard he was interested or willing to go to any other team if they are making a SB run late in season……….He should have tried to get traded this past season when it was speculated he could have gone to a contender. It would have helped Atlanta get a late draft pick or even a current young prospect……Now; nothing he does, short of returning, can help them.

  38. donnymacjack says: Feb 6, 2014 5:41 PM

    Of course the silly blog formatting won’t allow the “lines” to be where I placed them…2 ft apart for Kaep and his old-school baseball wind-up motion.

  39. jamaltimore says: Feb 6, 2014 5:44 PM

    Just glad to so he’s no longer compared to Joe Flacco. Flacco wins and is a Superbowl MVP Matty ice is neither. Can’t wait to till next year under Kubiak. Look out AFC! l

  40. khmer379 says: Feb 6, 2014 5:46 PM

    waiting for seahawks fans to say hey what about russel wilson? lol

  41. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Feb 6, 2014 5:57 PM

    The whole Falcons team, organization & fans lack substance… You can see it in there faces when the adversity hits. They are too Hotlanta trendy & believe their own hype so the house of cards always comes crashing down… at the critical moments.

  42. pftfan says: Feb 6, 2014 6:00 PM

    Elite isn’t permanent. Look at Eli.

  43. tommysaint1 says: Feb 6, 2014 6:00 PM

    Still hunting for a ring in your old age, aren’t you Tony?

  44. joey49er says: Feb 6, 2014 6:00 PM

    Kapp has lead niners to 1 superbowl and two nfc championships games….Hes won 3 Playoff games on the road….The guys a winner….But this is a team game….Niners have been out coached 2yrs straight!!!

  45. lennymoorerules says: Feb 6, 2014 6:02 PM

    Fans determine that you are elite based on how many fantasy points you rack up. Good grief! Bart Starr was a great qb with 5 titles (the only one with five, save Otto Graham=7). He is a HOFer and a good man. Was he elite-no! He was a great qb on an elite team-probably the greatest of all time. Players know the elites. When they step into the huddle, shut up and wait for the play from a man that they trust for a win. Peyton, Brady, Montana, Unitas and a handful of others are the elites.

  46. elliottcovert says: Feb 6, 2014 6:19 PM

    Dang, that’s the first even slightly controversial thing I’ve ever heard Gonzalez say.

    Not controversial in the sense that most people wouldn’t agree with him about that, but more in the sense that in everything else I’ve heard him say, he’s avoided anything that even comes close to minor criticism of anyone else.

  47. joey49er says: Feb 6, 2014 6:21 PM

    Kapp haters keep on hating!!!! Niner fans love kapp!!!! Atleast kapp had the niners with in 1 score of winning nfc championship!!!! 11-4 !!!
    So how did manning fare against seattle!!!!!lol
    I will take kapp…..

  48. weepingjebus says: Feb 6, 2014 6:21 PM

    Peyton Manning is only elite if it’s 78 degrees out and his team has gotten him up by 4 TDs. And even then, hold on to your hats.

  49. skinsrock says: Feb 6, 2014 6:29 PM

    Flacco > Matt Ryan… Playoff wins don’t lie.

  50. truths4all says: Feb 6, 2014 6:32 PM

    OK, Ryan as an Excellent QB remained a fairly effective quarterback in 2013 while dealing with injured receivers and a bad offensive line. Yet this “excellent” QB led his team to a 4-12 record.

    How do we compare this performance? How would an ELITE QB dealing with injured receivers, a bad offensive line, and a totally revamped defense due to season ending injuries to its defensive stars have done? Well, Brady and his team finished 12-4, won one playoff game and finally ran out of gas against the Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

    Its remarkable how an “excellent” QB leads his team versus the results that an “Elite” QB can push his team to achieve.

    Definitely, Ryan is NOT an elite QB.

  51. mrlaloosh says: Feb 6, 2014 6:35 PM

    Gee Tony. You’ll get roasted for speaking the truth. Atlanta will never go anywhere with Meek Smith as the coach and Tommy DimBulb-atroff as the GM. NEVER!
    Of course a fourth place schedule will help them this year. Then back to the usual incompetence.

  52. gammynomnom says: Feb 6, 2014 6:41 PM

    I would be willing to bet there are not any elite, or even excellent QBs that have 4-12 records. Injuries are no excuse. Every team has injuries. You are what your record says you are.

  53. bigdawguga says: Feb 6, 2014 6:44 PM

    I’m not understanding how Ryan = Romo? Ryan had got into the playoffs 3 times. Though he had only won one game, romo can’t win it even keep the game close to put his team in the playoffs. Romo has a much better defense, and O-line also. So Ryan is doing more than romo with less, but Ryan = romo? Your math is a tad flawed.

  54. lambeauwest says: Feb 6, 2014 6:46 PM

    Rodgers lost his starting left tackle, best WR (Cobb), best Tight End (J. Finley) James Jones for a while, broke in a new RB and had new starting center, right tackle and had one of the worst defenses and still made the playoffs.

    So what is Mattie Ice’s excuse. Don’t play the injury card please…

  55. mudhead123 says: Feb 6, 2014 6:46 PM

    How does kaepernick get brought up in almost any football column? If he is so terrible why are fans obsessed with him?

  56. johnnyprc says: Feb 6, 2014 6:48 PM

    So what are the diff QB levels? I propose:

    2. Very good
    3. Good/Game manger
    4. Team looking to draft franchise QB, but will do for a 6-10 season
    5. Bad

  57. jayquintana says: Feb 6, 2014 6:50 PM

    He’s open to joining a team during its stretch run?

    In other words, I doubt we’ve seen the last of him in the NFL.

  58. orivar says: Feb 6, 2014 6:59 PM

    To the people talking about him not being Peyton. Peyton is 11-12 in the playoffs and 1-2 in the Superbowl. He has 37 touch downs and 24 interceptions playoffs compared to Brady’s 43-22 ratio. To put it in comparison Brett “Gunslinger” Favre is 44-30.

    Drew Brees ratio of 24-6 in 11 playoff games and Rodgers 19-5.

    Peyton takes care of the ball less. To put it in perspective this post season Peyton three five touchdowns and three interceptions going 1-2 in the Superbowl. The loss against the Ravens? Three touchdowns and two interceptions. Also 1-1 in the New Orleans Superbowl. What has put him ahead his padding his stats against teams like the Jets who haven’t been the greatest secondary wise even though they had Revis, and a great showing in 2004 post season which ended against the Patriots going 1-4 and then later 0-1 against them for 238 yards. Donovan McNabb went 3-3 against the same team passing 357 in his loss.

    Let’s not forget the Superbowl winning season against the REX GROSSMAN Bears where Peyton was 3-7 that post season going 1-1 in that SB. Get a better QB and Peyton Manning is 0-3 in the Superbowl. He’s also 3tds to 4ints in the Superbowl now. The point is that Peyton is good (in the regular season) but he isn’t god, he tends to collapse when facing good teams thus is arm won’t and hasn’t carried a team to a SB win. Brady has done better (with Adam sealing the deal). Rodgers & Brees too who are younger but I doubt their ratios are going to have a drastic change.

    So the question here is knowing how he handles adversity, is Peyton truly elite? Of course Ryan isn’t.

  59. chilomane says: Feb 6, 2014 7:02 PM

    Tony g has great numbers but is not a winner

  60. steelcurtainn says: Feb 6, 2014 7:02 PM

    Way to take a cheap shot on the way out the door, Tony.

  61. gmoundine says: Feb 6, 2014 7:08 PM

    As a Atlanta Falcons Season ticket holder and a Tony G fan, I am a little hesitant on attacking this statement. First, I think Matt Ryan is an excellent QB. a lot of us thought Peyton Manning was going to win the Super Bowl against Seattle, but it did not happen! Does this not make him an great, elite, or top tier QB. I do not want to go there and think Tony should have not. Yes, QBs are judged off Championships or are they (Marino). This is a team sport. It was proven this last Super Bowl….Seattle D, Special Teams and Offense all dominated Denver. I say team effort. Elat took a while, but he got his. my opinion Matt Ryan will also. There are different variables that play a role. Believe it or not Matt Ryan had a great season though his team went 4-12..check the stats…it goes back to what some can’t really judge QBs from different generations. Matt is still young..the QBs Tony are referring to are 2-3 years from the end of their careers. So, I either agree or disagree with Tong Gs statement. Go Falcons, Rise Up!

  62. slick50ks says: Feb 6, 2014 7:10 PM

    Ryan is a decent QB, but he’ll never win much with that TERRIBLE defense in Atlanta.

    The defense is so bad it’ll get Smith and Dimitroff both fired. Soon.

  63. ranoversquarells says: Feb 6, 2014 7:21 PM

    My homerism says New England, but my unbiased suggestion says Seattle.

  64. torontofalcon says: Feb 6, 2014 7:21 PM

    As a Falcons fan I can agree with what he said. All Matt needs is a few more playoff wins and maybe a SB to be at the Rodgers and Brady level. To be fair to Matt though as good as his offense has been he’s never had a defense ranked above 15 to lean on in case of bad games. Him and Andrew Luck are the leaders of that “Almost Elite Tier” of QBs.

  65. electricboogalo says: Feb 6, 2014 7:23 PM

    Usually the QB makes the receivers better, but I think for Ryan the case is the opposite.

  66. justintuckrule says: Feb 6, 2014 7:26 PM

    Are Falcons fans gonna shun TG for bad mouthing Ryan like Giants fans shunned Tiki for similar comments?

  67. middy8484 says: Feb 6, 2014 7:27 PM

    He will never get a ring.

  68. pats777 says: Feb 6, 2014 7:55 PM

    Ryan, Flacco, Romo and Cutler are members of the paid elite club, but not the elite QB club.

  69. jimmysee says: Feb 6, 2014 8:46 PM

    NOT elite — like Matt Stafford!

  70. realitycheckbaby says: Feb 6, 2014 9:13 PM

    No one has done what RW did in their first two seasons.

  71. hpeters77 says: Feb 6, 2014 9:58 PM

    Bree’s was talking to Gonzales at the pro bowl and he wants him to join the Saints

  72. rolanddeschain17 says: Feb 6, 2014 10:00 PM

    Tony, if you want a ring, just sign a one-year contract with Seattle for one dollar.

    Boom. Done.

  73. zhawk12 says: Feb 6, 2014 10:18 PM

    As a Seahawk fan since 1976 I MIGHT be a little biased, but if Russell Wilson keeps winning playoff games (4-1) like he has won regular season games (most in first two years in NFL history), how could you NOT consider him elite?

  74. metalhead65 says: Feb 6, 2014 10:45 PM

    don’t worry Matt if you keep playing as long as tony you can set a bunch of records without winning a superbowl like he did and then be considered elite like him.

  75. lambeauwest says: Feb 6, 2014 11:06 PM

    So is any QB that leads a team to a SB an “elite QB”. Are Russell Wilson, Trent Dilfer, Rich Gannon elite QBs? Doug Williams?

  76. seenoland54 says: Feb 6, 2014 11:34 PM

    So what do these “elite” quarterbacks have that Ryan doesn’t? An offensive line. Since Ryan arrived the Falcons front office, and Arthur Blank, have been obsessed with “names” in the backfield for years and just ignores the line. Put Ryan behind the line of any of the teams these “elite” quarterbacks play with and there wouldn’t be enough fingers for the Super Bowl rings he would win.

  77. cursedvikings1998 says: Feb 6, 2014 11:35 PM

    If Matt Ryan isn’t there by now, he’s never going to get there. Dude’s going into his 7th year.

  78. sharks123 says: Feb 6, 2014 11:56 PM

    Steve Young will never win a ring. Pete Carroll will never do anything in the NFL. The fact is, no one knows if Kap will take the next steps in his career. Kap wasn’t just along for the ride in the 4 winning playoff games he’s been a part of. Idiots talk about him like he’s freakin Mark Sanchez.

  79. unitasftw says: Feb 7, 2014 12:25 AM

    Can’t spell elite without David tyree and Wes welker.

  80. hess97 says: Feb 7, 2014 12:33 AM

    The hate on Kaepernick is ridiculous. All he’s done in a year in a half is play in the Super Bowl and another NFC title game. He played with a lead on the champs for three more quarters than manning played with. He also played much better against Carolina and Seattle than Luck managed against NE’s D.

  81. indianriverone says: Feb 7, 2014 2:05 AM

    Most overrated discussion of all time: Is Peyton Manning the best QB in history? There’s no such thing, and why should anyone care? He’s among the greats. What else matters?

    Second most overrated discussion: Whether Joe Schmoe is an “elite” QB? Why does this matter, when the Seahawks can win the Superbowl with Russell Wilson. He’s “good enough.”

  82. mannyicey says: Feb 7, 2014 4:21 AM

    Elite is a delicate word, too. I agree that Ryan is very good. Excellent, even. But the ELITE quarterbacks are Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. I use to say Drew Brees, but I’ve seen him lay eggs too many times during the past couple of years for me to see him as elite. I would consider him as Elite-Lite, right now.

    But Ryan and Flacco are right behind him though.

  83. hannahlaura says: Feb 7, 2014 7:21 AM

    He is first time HOF. Now it is time to walk away. Go do some TV.

  84. andymannfl says: Feb 7, 2014 8:12 AM

    Nothing controversial about this statement. I mean think about it. ‘Elite’ should imply at worst that you’re in the top 10-15% of what you’re looking at. With 32 starting QBs, that means he’d have to be in the top 3-5. He’s not that guy. So what? You can be an ‘excellent’ QB and lead your team to a superbowl.

  85. patbetw says: Feb 7, 2014 8:28 AM

    Ryan has more tools around him than almost every other QB in the league. He has yet to show that he can win with all that talent. He looks like a good QB physically so the problem has to be in his head. That is a tough problem to overcome. Can’t blame all the losses on the defense.

  86. musicman495 says: Feb 7, 2014 8:48 AM

    I don’t think Ryan is even “that close.” Every time something goes wrong on the field, his eyes say, “deer in the headlights.”

  87. jr325 says: Feb 7, 2014 9:24 AM

    If Mark Sanchez has more playoff wins than you…. Then you’re not elite

  88. truninerfan49 says: Feb 7, 2014 9:28 AM

    Shut up Tony. I am so glad you finished your career without a super bowl ring

  89. thebirdsareback says: Feb 7, 2014 10:07 AM

    Joe Flacco laughs as he polishes his Super Bowl Ring, Counts his millions, and eats his mighty wings. Matt Ryan is looking around like, Flacco? really? MVP? WOW!….and I am like…JOE FLACCO WAS THE BETTER PICK!!! HES NEVER HAD JULIO JONES, RODDY WHITE, TONY G, MATT TURNER. I suspect the Falcons win it all with Joey Vincent at the helm. Jeez Ozzie really is the wizard

  90. toybkshr says: Feb 7, 2014 10:31 AM

    Actually, I believe the Gonzalez statements and stories regarding last season recently, appear designed to get Atl to release him, so presumably he can sign with a contender.

  91. jtbsteeler says: Feb 7, 2014 10:39 AM

    Neither is Joe Flacco.

  92. jtbsteeler says: Feb 7, 2014 10:47 AM

    Ozzie Newsome’s moves last offseason set the Ravens back 5 to 10 seasons.

    The Steelers should be favored to win the division

  93. greatgatzby says: Feb 8, 2014 10:56 AM

    The Packers red zone troubles last year and lack of depth at tight end going into this season would be a match made in heaven for that offense.

  94. damos10 says: Feb 8, 2014 11:41 AM

    what makes an athlete elite? the seahawks clearly made peyton manning look less elite. not only in the superbowl but in the preseason game as well. the ravens defense speared by ray lewis and ed reed always made both manning and brady look less elite. so I’m saying it’s possible to be elite in a subpar division and when a couple of great games in a career and become great. usually if a quarterback wins two superbowls, he’s considered one of the GOATs. but Eli won two in a short amount of time and isn’t ranked no where near peyton or brady. but he’s played in a tougher division

  95. bikelikemike says: Feb 8, 2014 12:05 PM

    damos10 says: Feb 8, 2014 11:41 AM

    “what makes an athlete elite? the seahawks clearly made peyton manning look less elite. not only in the superbowl but in the preseason game as well. the ravens defense speared by ray lewis and ed reed always made both manning and brady look less elite. so I’m saying it’s possible to be elite in a subpar division and when a couple of great games in a career and become great. usually if a quarterback wins two superbowls, he’s considered one of the GOATs. but Eli won two in a short amount of time and isn’t ranked no where near peyton or brady. but he’s played in a tougher division”

    You mean the division where Tony Romo and the Eagles just puked all over themselves year after year??? And is there one other team in that division? I’m not sure as I’m drawing a blank. No-one comes to mind!! Meh. Must be a real powerhouse division you’re spitting chunks over. Wow. What a load of garbage you spew outta your blowhole.

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