The NFL trade deadline passed at 4 p.m. on Tuesday with the Atlanta Falcons doing nothing.
That was a huge mistake.
No, the team had no business trying to improve itself. It’s too late for that. The loss to Arizona Sunday was pretty much a concession that the season is over. You can’t play like that and expect to make some miracle run into the playoffs.
But what Atlanta could have done is plan for the future by trading tight end Tony Gonzalez, who will retire (again) at the end of the season. Instead, the Falcons were afraid of public perception and didn’t want to give off the wrong impression that they were, in fact, giving up on the season.
Sometimes it’s amazing how teams think a fan base is just stupid. The fans know the record is 2-5. They know the Falcons currently sit 12th out of 16 teams in the NFC playoff race. They’d have to jump five teams to have a chance to make it into the postseason.
Now, it is late October. There are still nine games to play. But did you see that game Sunday? It was the worst game in years for the Falcons. They looked nothing like a team with even a remote chance at the playoffs.
It’s like what former Indianapolis head coach Jim Mora said when he was asked one year about his mediocre team’s chance at the postseason: “Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.”
Atlanta had a perfect chance to get another piece for the future -- a draft pick -- by trading Gonzalez. And there was a perfect candidate for a trade -- his former team, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are 8-0 and have been one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season under new head coach Andy Reid.
And here’s the crazy thing, the Chiefs need another offensive weapon. Their leading receiver is their running back, the talented Jamaal Charles. Their two tight ends, Sean McGrath and Anthony Fasano, have combined for 281 receiving yards. You don’t think Gonzalez would be a great threat for quarterback Alex Smith? Gonzalez might not guarantee Kansas City a Super Bowl, but he would make them a bigger challenger heading into January.
This Atlanta team will have a lot of needs this offseason, so they will need as many draft picks as possible. How great would it have been to get a third or fourth round pick in return for Gonzalez and help improve the team for the future?
Instead, the Falcons, who have to massage the fan base with the new stadium on the horizon, didn’t want to throw in the towel -- or at least give them the impression they were doing that. But again, the fans know exactly what’s going on here. Sure, they love Gonzalez, but they would have respected the team doing the right thing by giving him a chance to get something he’s not going to get in Atlanta this season.
And speaking of the new stadium, hasn’t it been a shame that there’s been more news on that than the team this season. Sure, the Falcons need a new stadium, and it’s going to be really, really nice, but it’s like this is all we hear about. It kind of shows you where the priority has been this year.
The injuries the Falcons have had have had an impact, but this team was not built to get back to a NFC championship game. The offensive line is a mess, and the linebackers are just not very good. How could they allow Cardinals running back Andre Ellington to look like Barry Sanders on Sunday?
Huge mistakes have been made in the draft the past few years, but that still doesn’t mean you don’t try to accumulate as many picks as possible for the future. A trade of Gonzalez would have helped tremendously. It would have also allowed rookie tight end Levine Toilolo to get more experience, since he’s going to take over for Gonzalez next season anyway.
Instead, the Falcons did about as well off the field with no trade as they have on-field this season. Gonzalez will now simply help Atlanta finish with six or seven wins, if they’re lucky.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.