SDUT: It's obvious: Tight end torch has passed to Gates

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

Memo to those who pen biographies of Kansas City Chiefs players in the team media guide: Do you know that part about veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez being unquestionably the league's finest player at his position?

A major rewrite is in order.

Feel free to begin immediately.

For the few comatose souls out there who haven't watched Antonio Gates ridicule opposing defenses, yesterday offered irrefutable evidence that the third-year Chargers player now sits on the throne Gonzalez occupied for so many seasons.

How appropriate that Gates staked his claim on a day San Diego defeated the visiting Chiefs 28-20. How persuasive an argument Gates made by scoring three touchdowns with Gonzalez watching from the opposing sideline.

How preposterous it is for anyone to now even question where the NFL's pre-eminent tight end resides.

"I don't want to say that," said Gates, who skilled his way to career-bests in receptions (10) and yards (145). "Tony has set a very high standard for the position. He has done it for (nine seasons), year in and year out. I'm only in my third season. I'm up and coming. He has been to eight Pro Bowls (really six). I have to get to that many before I can say I'm (the best). I've only been to one and am not guaranteed to go back."

Sure. And it's not guaranteed Seattle will get much rain in the next few months or that San Diego's new mayor will have any influence in whether the Chargers remain here or move on. Of course Gates will make more Pro Bowls. Health willing, he'll be more an annual lock than Hollywood rolling out another horrendous afternoon talk show, or haven't you seen Tyra Banks lately?

Think of the irony. Gonzalez rose above all other tight ends to lead active players at the position in receptions, yards and touchdowns because of a level of athleticism born in large part from a basketball background, having played both sports at Cal. For so long, he was just too big and too quick and too agile for NFL defenders to cover. Still is on some days.

Gates has all the same traits as Gonzalez.

Just more of them in most every phase.

"Antonio is very powerful," said Chargers quarterback Drew Brees. "You can't tackle him with one guy unless he's not looking and you're coming downhill. You're only going to see him get better and better. I would agree he is (the best). (Gonzalez) isn't too shabby. They're the top two in the league, bar none. But (Gates) showed everybody today – or just confirmed it – that he is the guy."

Gates is also 6 feet 4, which has always been good news for the Chargers. Had he been two or three inches taller coming out of Kent State, Gates right now might be more concerned with complying with the NBA dress code (which might be difficult considering the pink and gray suede shoes seen in his locker yesterday) than reaching the end zone.

As it stands, the Chargers are forever grateful classic tweeners exist.

"(Basketball) is a different question between myself (and Gonzalez)," said Gates. "You have to understand – Tony was a guy who came in and rebounded and got some garbage points. People game-planned against me. I averaged 20 points, not seven. Basketball is a whole other situation."

Football isn't. Not yet, anyway. The gap between them remains close but will widen as one man's career nears its end and another's flourishes with experience. Gonzalez isn't enjoying a memorable season – he hadn't scored until yesterday – but it takes a far more powerful elixir than several mediocre weeks to evaporate greatness.

Gates, however, continues to amaze.

His three touchdown catches yesterday included three different forms of talent, whether it was beating a double-team for one score or running past a linebacker for another or breaking a tackle on a short gain and outsprinting defenders to the end zone on another. He has played in seven of the team's eight games and still leads the Chargers in receptions (43) and receiving yards (575) and is tied for TD catches (6).

The man who didn't play a down of college football is a freak in the best possible way.

Consider these words from a Chiefs player following the game: "It's frustrating, but I'm glad for Antonio. He came out and played great. They threw the ball up to him where only he could get it. One of the best games I have ever seen by a tight end. . . . I'm happy for him. I told him to keep going out there and getting better. I am excited for him."

Maybe even Tony Gonzalez knows this truth: Time passes, new faces emerge, torches are passed.

How crazy to suggest it hasn't happened in this case.