Tony Gonzalez: Broncos will go undefeated
There hasn't been an unbeaten NFL team since the 1972 Dolphins, but if Tony Gonzalez's prediction comes true, Don Shula's team will have some company: the 2014 Broncos.
"Right now, Denver has a team built just like the New England Patriots back when they went undefeated [in the 2007 regular season],'' said Gonzalez, the former All-Pro tight end who retired after last season and is an NFL analyst for CBS.
"In looking at Denver in the preseason and Peyton Manning's command of that offense, he'll pick up right where he left off last year. And defensively, they went out like good organizations do and addressed their weaknesses.''
Gonzalez's call: The Broncos will join the Patriots as the only unbeaten team in a 16-game regular season. But Denver won't stumble like the 18-1 Patriots, who lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl after David Tyree's spectacular catch of Eli Manning's desperation heave set up the winning touchdown late in the game.
"I think it's going to be a Denver-Seattle rematch in the Super Bowl,'' Gonzalez said. "And I would go with Denver this time. Giving Peyton two shots at it, to go against the same team, I'll take Peyton. He didn't have his All-Pro left tackle [Ryan Clady] against them last year [in Seattle's 43-8 romp] and they didn't have their right corner [Chris Harris].''
Gonzalez sees the Broncos as loaded, especially after they splurged in free agency to sign linebacker DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib.
"If they can stay healthy, how do you beat this team?'' Gonzalez said. "They're balanced on both sides of the ball. They can run, they can pass, they can stop the run and they can stop the pass now on a consistent basis. It's going to be very, very tough to beat them.
"You better play mistake-free football and come up with some luck plays, just like New England got beat by a luck play against the Giants in the Super Bowl. That's the only reason they got beat. If you don't have that play, it's over.''
Gonzalez is wasting little time delivering strong opinions in his new role. He'll appear on CBS' pregame show with Boomer Esiason, Bart Scott, Bill Cowher and host James Brown.
Gonzalez, 38, still was playing at a high level when he announced his retirement from the Falcons after 17 NFL seasons, the first 12 with the Chiefs.
"I've had teams ask me to come back and play for them,'' he said. "I won't name those teams, but I'm happily retired, so I'm not even thinking about it. I'm looking forward to getting to work with these guys from CBS.''
Gonzalez acknowledged he'd be tempted to consider returning if a contender called him late in the season. After all, the only thing missing from his resume is a Super Bowl championship.
"The temptation would be there, but I don't know what the gain would be,'' he said. "I've always wanted a ring. That's been my main goal as a player over the last 15 years of my career. You're really trying to get that ultimate goal.
"But I'd be a mercenary to come in and get a Super Bowl ring, play with a team for, what, six, seven weeks? And even if I got the ring, it wouldn't be the same as going through the fight with the team from the beginning to the end. I don't think that will happen. The temptation will be there, but I'm 100- percent happy with my decision.
"I was able to walk away from the game on my own terms. Not a lot of players get a chance to do that. I'm very fortunate to do that. I wouldn't want to go back on that good luck.''
As it turned out, Gonzalez's trademark touchdown celebration of dunking the ball over the crossbar went out the year he retired. As a result of Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's knocking the crossbar askew when he dunked against the Falcons last year, the NFL outlawed the move.
Gonzalez knew it was coming and told Graham that after the game.
"I went to him and said, 'You know what? You just got that outlawed. They're not going to let that happen again next year. It took 20 minutes to fix it. Now you're messing with the TV stuff. The NFL is going to crack down on you.'
"I don't think he really believed me, because he was laughing. But I said, 'I'm serious. You just got that kicked out of the NFL forever.' ''
Graham dunked twice after touchdowns in a game last weekend and incurred a penalty each time.
"He needs to understand he can't do that,'' Gonzalez said. "He said he's not going to do it anymore, and I would anticipate he's never going to do it during a game, because that would be incredibly selfish of him. He's too good for that.
"I just think he was saying, 'You know what? Back at you.' But he'll pay for it [with a fine]. Hopefully, it was worth it. He's got the money now.''