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Tony Gonzalez: Matt Ryan is excellent, but not elite


A couple of years back, the question of whether or not Eli Manning was an elite quarterback became an offseason discussion topic.

The question of whether or not that modifier applies to another quarterback has been raised by the quarterback’s recently retired tight end. ESPN the Magazine has an upcoming interview with Tony Gonzalez that features Gonzalez placing Ryan in a category just below elite.

“Matt’s an excellent quarterback. But he’s not elite. He’s this close. He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do,” Gonzalez said, via NFL Live on ESPN.

The line between the adjectives we use to describe a quarterback’s place are hard to define, although that doesn’t make it easier to put up much of an argument with Gonzalez’s assessment. Ryan remained a fairly effective quarterback in 2013 while dealing with injured receivers and a bad offensive line and is solidly in the top half of quarterbacks in the NFL, but winning big in the playoffs is usually a prerequisite for getting the elite label.

In the interview, Gonzalez also suggests at one point that he’d be open to a possible return next season, if the Falcons are 9-2 in November. If Ryan makes the improvement that Gonzalez believes he needs, the Falcons would be better positioned to be such a team whether or not Gonzalez decides to strap their helmet back on in 2014.