Tony Gonzalez: Knew Matt Ryan Would Be Good From Beginning

Take a look around the NFL. More specifically, take a look at the teams playing this weekend. Better yet, take a look at their quarterbacks.

Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers. Ben Roethlisberger. Matt Ryan.

That’s quite a quartet.

“I think it just shows what it takes to get to the big game,” CBS Sports NFL analyst Tony Gonzalez said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “If you look back, if you look at all the Super Bowl winners, you look at the quarterbacks or you look at the defenses and you’ll see something really, really special there – sometimes in both places. It just shows that if you’re a team out there and you got a good quarterback who’s going to win you some regular-season games, get you into the playoffs, a guy that you’re not really complaining about, that you’re not thinking about replacing – that’s a good thing for a team during the regular season. But once you get to the playoffs, unless you have that once-in-a-decade type defense, you’re not going to get to the big dance. This absolutely proves it. Three Hall of Famers and then one guy who is the MVP in Matt Ryan are the final four in this tournament. I think it just hits home. It could be discouraging to some of those teams out there that (think), ‘My quarterback is good but he’s just not (good enough) to get a Super Bowl ring.’ That’s where it becomes tough to do and why these guys get paid $25 million year. Elite quarterbacks are a very hard thing to find, a very special thing to find.”

Gonzalez, 40, was traded to Atlanta in 2009 following Ryan’s rookie season. He played five years with Ryan and isn’t at all surprised by his rise.

“I knew right from the beginning, you could see he could make all the throws, like a lot of quarterbacks can,” Gonzalez said, “but really what separated him was what he did off the field. I saw how hard he worked and how curious he was. He asked questions, always trying to get better. I always said it’s just a matter of not if, it’s when. It’s going to happen. I think what happened to him last year – where he had the worst year of his career statistically – (changed him). When you got through that type of situation, I went through that same thing.”

In 1998, Gonzalez’s second season in the NFL, he dropped a league-leading 17 balls.

“Totally embarrassed,” Gonzalez said. “And it was the best thing that ever happened to me – because that offseason, I asked questions about myself that I normally wouldn’t have asked. If I would have had average success, I probably would never would have asked those hard, hard questions or identified those mistakes that I need to work on. And then also speak up for myself at that point, where I could say, ‘Hey, coach, I don’t like this play. I need something else. I’ve done that before and it doesn’t work.’ That’s a hard thing to have that type of freedom as a football player, and I think Matt did that this offseason with Kyle Shanahan: This is what works, this is what doesn’t work. He mentally went there and said, ‘I’m not going through what I went through last year with my teammates.’ He probably has a different approach with them. I just got a feeling that when bad stuff like that happens, that’s when you have to ask those honest questions and get honest answers from yourself and it makes you a better football player. That’s why Matt is just dominating from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, and I’m anticipating he’s going to do the same thing this weekend.”

Sunday’s kickoff is slated for 3:05 p.m. ET. You can catch Tony in the new Vin Diesel film XXX: Return of Xander Cage, in theaters today.

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