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Mark Bradley

ESPN: Tony Gonzalez says Matt Ryan is ‘not elite’

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"Don't go thinking you're elite, pal."

“Don’t go thinking you’re elite, pal.”

I hate to make too much of a Tweet, but this one kind of jumped out at me. According to ESPN the Magazine, Tony Gonzalez told writer Seth Wickersham: “Matt (Ryan is) an excellent quarterback. But he’s not elite. He’s THIS close.”

I’ve not seen Wickersham’s story — Dave Choate of the Falcoholic indicates it’s just now available on newsstands — so I can’t comment beyond the Tweet. But “he’s not elite” is pretty hard to take out of context, don’t you think?

And you know what? I wouldn’t disagree with the just-retired Tony G. I’ve long thought Ryan was closer to Eli Manning than Peyton, although that’s not such a terrible thing. I wouldn’t put Ryan on the top shelf alongside Brady and Brees and P. Manning and Rodgers. I’d put him one level down, with Flacco and E. Manning and Rivers and Roethlisberger. (With the young guys — Wilson, Luck and Kaepernick — coming up fast.)

Can you win a Super Bowl with Matt Ryan? I’ve never believed you couldn’t, and I don’t believe otherwise even after 4-12. I think he is, as Gonzalez said, an excellent QB who’s very close to elite status. I’d also note that Eli Manning has won twice as many Super Bowls as his older brother.

Update: Via the ol’ iPad, I have now read Wickersham’s story, which is essentially a weekly chronicle of Gonzalez’s farewell season. Included: The disgusted (and unprintable) reaction of Gonzalez’s wife when he wasn’t traded at midseason; his observation (after the New England game) that the Falcons lacked a pass rush; the news that Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez had a double date with Mr. and Mrs. Ryan, and that the quarterback presented the retiring tight end with a gold Rolex after his final game.

The “he’s-not-elite” observation was made after the aforementioned loss to the Patriots — as a rule, nobody looks all that great when viewed alongside Brady, who was especially splendid that night — and contains this Gonzalez projection: “He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do.”

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