Now attempting to clear the air, he says the fault lies directly with the four-letter.
In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gonzalez blasted ESPN (and NFL Network, in fact) for being “biased” and twisting his words about Ryan.
“There was no firestorm,” Gonzalez said. “They pulled quotes from that article a couple of days before it came out, so now you’re not getting the whole story. ESPN was biased about it and so was the NFL Network. I saw the ticker where it said, ‘Tony calls out his former quarterback’ or whatever. Which is ridiculous.”
The brouhaha began earlier this month when he supposedly told ESPN the Magazine that Ryan wasn’t an elite signal-caller.
“Matt’s an excellent quarterback, but he’s not elite,” Gonzalez opined to the magazine. “He’s this close. He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do.”
Gonzalez, however, meant no disrespect to his former teammate of five years, with whom he developed a close off-the-field relationship.
“Matt and I are going on two vacations together,” Gonzalez said. “Me and his wife (Sarah) and my wife (October), we go out to dinner all of the time. Why would I call the guy out, who made the last five years of my career great? Why would I call him out?
“I didn’t call him out. That’s why I didn’t respond to it. I didn’t tweet about it. I didn’t go on a bunch of radio stations. I did a couple of interviews and I was like, I’m not defending myself. This is ridiculous and I talked to Matt, too. It’s a non-story as far as I was concerned.”
But he’s not exactly backing down from his original analysis, either.
“Matt is so close to being at the top of the NFL,” Gonzalez said. “He is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. I stand by what I said. The Mount Rushmore for NFL quarterbacks is Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning and those guys are all potentially, you can make an argument. …I know at least two of them are first ballot Hall of Famers and Matt is almost there.”
Gonzalez is absolutely right in that this is a non-story. But now as a member of the media — he was recently hired by CBS to work their NFL pregame show — Gonzalez must know that sensationalistic reporting is common practice in today’s click-driven world.
The next time he makes such a declaration, the future Hall of Fame tight end should be better prepared to handle the inevitable backlash.
(Photo credit: Marc Serota/Getty Images North America)