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Falcons TE Gonzalez considers Brees, not Ryan, Elite QB

What does one of the best tight ends to ever play the game think of the man who has been lobbing balls his way for the last five seasons?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In a recent interview with Seth Wickerman, for ESPN's The Magazine, Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez mentioned that he might return to play next season if the team looked like a Super Bowl contender. He also said that he thought Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is very good, but not elite.

Of course, a comment like that can cause a bit of a stir, so it wasn't long before he found himself clarifying his statement in a interview with CBS Sports Radio's Doug Gottlieb. "It's not a matter of if [Ryan becomes an elite quarterback], it's just a matter of when," Gonzalez said about the Falcons signal caller. Perhaps a man in Gonzalez's position doesn't feel the need to backpedal when he makes a comment that someone doesn't like. But he managed to stay classy and supportive of his quarterback, without waffling on the issue.

On Monday, during a chat with Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio, Gonzalez stood fast in his opinion when he found himself addressing the matter a third time. While he never backed down from his position, the star TE did say that he didn't mean it as a slight to rank Matt Ryan below Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers, just as he means no slight to Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning to rank them alongside Ryan. This was in reference to his previous interview, when Gonzales lumped Atlanta's signal caller in with the "Second class of QBs: Ryan, Rivers, Newton, Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson."

Although some Falcons fans may get up in arms, the only out-of-bounds aspect of this entire issue is the need to rail against Gonzalez for his honest, and accurate, assessment of the quarterback with whom he spent the last five seasons. It's difficult to argue with his breakdown of the NFL's current quarterbacks; though there is plenty of room for argument as to whether Matt Ryan will ever join the ranks of those four passers considered to be the NFL's elite.