Tony Gonzalez

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Tony Gonzalez in; Tom Flores, John Lynch miss out


Pro Football Hall of Fame: Tony Gonzalez in; Tom Flores, John Lynch miss out

ATLANTA – Former Raiders coach Tom Flores and 49ers general manager John Lynch on Saturday fell short of the required votes to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The 48 voters selected the Class of 2019, which included first-ballot inductees tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Champ Bailey. Cornerback Ty Law and center Kevin Mawae were also voted into the Hall of Fame on the modern-era ballot.

Seniors nominee Johnny Robinson, and contributors Pat Bowlen and Gil Brandt round out the eight-person Hall of Fame class. Those eight individuals will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3.

Gonzalez, who played football and basketball at Cal, is considered one of the top tight ends in NFL history. A 14-time Pro Bowl selection, Gonzalez played 17 NFL seasons with Kansas City and Atlanta. He ranks No. 2 all time behind Jerry Rice with 1,325 receptions. He ranks sixth in receiving yards (15,127) and eighth in receiving touchdowns (111).

Neither Lynch nor Flores advanced Saturday from the 15 finalists into the top 10. A maximum of five modern-era candidates can be elected into the Hall of Fame in any given year.

Flores, a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, was a first-time finalist in his 24th year of eligibility. He was 83-53 in his nine seasons as Raiders head coach.

Lynch was a finalist for the Hall of Fame for the sixth time. Of the 22 finalists who have been a finalist six times, Lynch is the only one of those individuals who has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. He appeared in nine Pro Bowls during his career with Tampa Bay and Denver.

The selectors met for nearly eight hours on Saturday at the Georgia World Conference Center on the eve of Super Bowl LIII, to discuss the merits of each of the 18 finalists. The conversation lasted 18:54 for Flores, while Lynch’s discussion went for 12:39.

Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl performer with Baltimore, ranks No. 1 all time with 1,590 interception return yards. Bailey was elected to 12 Pro Bowls in his 15-year career with Washington and the Denver Broncos. Law, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, is the first player from the New England Patriots dynasty to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Mawae was an eight-time Pro Bowl player with the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.

Robinson recorded 57 interceptions in his 12-year career with the Dallas Texans and Kansas City of the AFL. Bowlen won three Super Bowls as Broncos owner, and Brandt was instrumental to the Dallas Cowboys’ success as a scout.

The longest discussion of the modern-era candidates was for Law (27:16), followed by offensive tackle Tony Boselli (26:10), Mawae (24:52) and coach Don Coryell (22:37). The shortest discussion was for Reed (2:20).

Defensive lineman Richard Seymour and wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who finished their careers with the Raiders and 49ers, respectively, did not make the cut from the 15 finalists into the final 10.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors.

49ers tight end George Kittle ready to learn from Tony Gonzalez's advice


49ers tight end George Kittle ready to learn from Tony Gonzalez's advice

How do you top the greatest season by a tight end in NFL history? It's easy: go learn from perhaps the greatest to ever play the position. 

That's exactly what George Kittle will do this offseason. 

Kittle, along with 49ers assistant head coach/tight ends coach Jon Embree, is set to meet up with Tony Gonzalez in either February or March. 

"Anything I can pick up from a Hall of Fame tight end," Kittle said Wednesday on 95.7 The Game. "His film speaks for itself. Any piece of advice I can take from him -- whether that's better ways to catch the ball, tips on routes, tips on reading safeties." 

[RELATED: How George Kittle wants to get even better after record-breaking season]

In just his second pro season, Kittle set the NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season with 1,377. Gonzalez has the most career receiving yards at the position in NFL history with 15,127.

Embree has a helping hand in both records, as he also coached Gonzalez for four years in Kansas City. 

“Tony knows how I work and things I want done, so Tony is going to work with him on some of those things and teach him some of the little tricks and nuances that he’s done over his career,” Embree said.

One thing is abundantly clear: Kittle will be all ears, open to any advice.  

"Whatever he says, I'm gonna absorb it like a sponge and hopefully take it with me into OTAs," Kittle said.

49ers' George Kittle to spend time in the offseason with Tony Gonzalez


49ers' George Kittle to spend time in the offseason with Tony Gonzalez

It is only going to get more difficult for George Kittle, who set the all-time NFL single-season record for tight ends with 1,377 receiving yards this season.

Kittle is likely to be the focus of every opponent that faces the 49ers next season. And with that in mind, 49ers assistant head coach/tight ends Jon Embree has lined up a special week in Los Angeles for Kittle to help him cope with the new challenge.

Kittle and Embree will meet up with Tony Gonzalez, one of the all-time great tight ends, in February or March, Embree said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

Embree said he believes Kittle can gain a lot from the experience of talking ball with Gonzalez, who is likely to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend in Atlanta.

“One of the things with George is, it’s easier to be the hunter than the hunted, so to speak,” Embree said. “So now that he’s had this success, my thing with him is, 'How do you sustain it?' And how hard it’s going to be to sustain that success.

“Now, when you walk into a game, everybody is going to know where 85 is on every play. Everybody is going to (say), defensively, ‘Get your hands on 85. Get your hands on 85.’ ‘Re-route.’ ‘Jam.’ All those different things that he’s going to have to face now, that maybe he didn’t face the entire year last year.”

There are few individuals on the planet who can relate more to the challenge of being a marked man than Gonzalez, who made 14 Pro Bowls in his 17 NFL seasons and ranks behind only Jerry Rice with 1,325 career receptions.

“I just want him to understand about how he needs to work, how he needs to continue to prepare,” Embree said of Kittle. “How do you handle certain things so when those things arise he’s not sitting there trying to figure out something? I can say, ‘Hey, remember when 88 told you this.’ ‘Hey, now, 88 told you about this; this is what we got to do.’ Don’t be frustrated, because those situations are going to arise next year for him.”

Embree and Gonzalez built a lasting bond during the three seasons Embree coached tight ends with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006 to ’09. Embree said he will go to dinner with Gonzalez and Kittle. Then, those two will work together on the field. NFL rules do not allow Embree to step on the field with Kittle before the start of the team’s offseason program in April.

“Tony knows how I work and things I want done, so Tony is going to work with him on some of those things and teach him some of the little tricks and nuances that he’s done over his career,” Embree said.

Kittle had an encouraging rookie season in 2017, catching 43 passes for 515 yards. However, he started just seven of the 15 games in which he appeared as he battled an array of injuries. This year, Kittle remained healthy, started all 16 games and caught 88 passes for 1,377 yards.

“He was a big body catch, letting the ball get on his body,” Embree said. “My thing is, if you’re 6-5 and you have the length you have, you got to use it. My expression is about playing big. So I want you to catch the ball outside your frame. Reach out and catch the ball. Use your length. You could tell he worked on that. He did a good job of plucking the ball. He did a good job of being in traffic and using his length.”

Kittle was even more impressive after getting the ball in his hands. He had 873 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the most for any player at any position since PFF began keeping statistics in 2006.

“The mindset in our room is, ‘Make them tackle you,’” Embree said. “The rule says they have to tackle you, but you don’t have to let them tackle you.”

[RELATED: Senior Bowl corners model after Richard Sherman]

Embree said once a player, such as Kittle with his size and speed, drops his shoulder and runs over a player in the secondary, it changes how defensive backs approach him for the remainder of the game.

“They’re going to make a business decision. And that business decision is, ‘I don’t want to get hurt’ or ‘I don’t want to look bad,’” Embree said. “So they’re going to let you go a little bit and tackle you from behind. He has such good speed, if they try to make that business decision, it ends up being an explosive (play) for a touchdown.”