KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Was it a fourth-rounder? A fifth? A third and a conditional? Two sixth-rounders and a $100 gift card at Jack Stack?
We may never know what was on the table, or if there was even a stinking table at all. All we know is the 2013 NFL trade deadline came and went Tuesday afternoon, and when the dust settled, Tony Gonzalez was still an Atlanta Falcon and Kansas City’s tight-end rotation was still Anthony Fasano, Sean McGrath, and a shrug.
The Chiefs-Gonzalez dance picked up serious heat a few weeks ago, got shot down by all the required parties, then picked up heat again Tuesday morning, when Tony G, a Kansas City icon from 1997-2008, told ESPN that he ‘would listen’ to offers if Atlanta found a partner that fit.
On paper, the Chiefs fit. Fasano and quarterback Alex Smith have a great rapport, but the former has been inactive with various bumps and bruises for most of the first half of the season. McGrath, the giant man with the giant beard, has been an absolute find, a waiver steal from the Seattle Seahawks, but the big lug has only racked up 10 NFL games under his belt over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, the Falcons are 2-5, decimated by injuries, and, with games left against the Seahawks, Saints, Packers and 49ers, going absolutely nowhere.
Alas, it takes two to tango, and while Tony G’s spirit was willing, the Falcons were not. While dumping Gonzalez might prove beneficial, long-term — the way revisionist history may forgive Cleveland for pawning Trent Richardson off to the Colts — it also effectively serves as a giant white flag for an Atlanta franchise that’s quickly turning off an already fickle fan base.
On this end of the line, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey is a Packers man, a disciple of the Packers Way. And Rule No. 1 of the Packers Way is this: Never ever, ever move draft picks, unless it’s for more draft picks. No way, no how.
In 2000, Green Bay moved Aaron Brooks and another player for a player and a pick. In 2001, it was Matt Hasselback and a pick to Seattle for two picks. In 2008, it was Brett Favre to the Jets for a third-round pick — a third-round pick that became linebacker Clay Matthews.
Picks must bring back more picks. Doesn’t matter if you’re 2-6, 4-4 … or 8-0.
This, of course, drives Chiefs fans bonkers, because the natural inclination is to make a play for now, to maximize the now. Dorsey and coach Andy Reid have already orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds not just in Kansas City history, but in the entire history of North American pro sports. When you can start planning for the playoffs in Week 7 or 8, why not throw the dice and take that chance? Why not make an addition to your roster than can maximize the moment?
Of course, Dorsey hears you. Of course, Dorsey gets it. The book says no, and that’s that. More’s the pity.
There are two losers here, of course. Kansas City misses out on one last dance with one of the greatest football players, one of the greatest pure entertainers, the city ever got to call its own. Tony G had a NBA-style game and could be an NBA-type diva, sure, but he backed it up. Those dunks were what you remember, the snapshots burned in the brain, but they were just the icing. The Chiefs will be playing for seeding soon, but in the postseason — where the little things get magnified, where flukes can change outcomes and ruin seasons — you could always use a bit more cake.
Greatness in October promises you nothing in January. Except that you get a January.
Weep, too, for Gonzalez, whose final chapter will end in a whimper in the south, anonymously, with an Atlanta roster playing out the string before what figures to be dwindling crowds and dwindling interest. The man deserved better. But in the NFL, just desserts, like contracts, are anything but guaranteed.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.