Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has 1,001 career catches. You might have heard about it. Here's the current list of guys ahead of him on the all-time list:
- Jerry Rice: 1,549
- Marvin Harrison: 1,102
- Cris Carter: 1,101
- Tim Brown: 1,094
- Isaac Bruce: 1,024
- Terrell Owens: 1,013
Only one of those players, Owens, is still adding to his total. The gap has closed recently, as Gonzalez has had more catches than Owens for three straight years. Then again, Owens had five more catches Sunday as Matt Ryan established a
drivethru bank teller tube space elevator with Roddy White.
The race is on. Once national fans catch on to what's happening -- say, once both receivers get within a couple games of Tim Brown -- they're going to start rooting for Gonzalez, by far the more well-liked of the two. We'll take it. It'll be like if Cal Ripken was going against Mark McGwire during the late-'90s home run derby and America gave a hoot about reception totals! But who's got a better shot?
Based on Owens' three years in Dallas (85, 81, and 69 catches) before joining outlier Buffalo last year and Gonzalez' one year in Atlanta (83), about 80 catches per year seems reasonable for both players. Both contend with run-heavy gameplans and a co-number-one receiver (White, Chad Ochocinco) for targets. So it might simply come down to longevity.
T.O. has also been playing a year longer than T.G. has. It wouldn't be insane to think Owens might retire first, especially since it wasn't until right before almost August that the Bengals finally signed him. However, while Gonzalez recently laughed off his "50-50" comment, he certainly didn't seem like he was joking at the time.
Both are famously fit, but Owens has dealt with more frequent injuries, missing games in seven different seasons while Gonzalez has only missed two games period. Not that missing 19 games is very many at all for a 14-plus-year career, but it's the variety and frequency of injuries here are what matters. We wouldn't root for him to be slowed by injuries, but if we're looking at who has a better shot to play at least two more years at a high level, that stuff matters.
And while Owens has a good situation in Cincy, where Ochocinco has sort of paved the way for attention-grabby behavior and provides Owens with what appears to be a stabling friendship, you never know what might happen. Gonzalez has Atlanta's tight end job as long as he wants it, but who would be shocked if Owens is looking for another team next summer?