It was announced Thursday that Tight End Jason Witten is retiring, after 17 seasons in the NFL. Witten played 16 seasons, a record breaking 255 games with the Cowboys, had a brief sabbatical in the booth as lead analyst for ESPN and finished with a year at the Raiders. He’ll sign a one day contract in Dallas to officially retire a Cowboys.
A Slow Start?
Drafted out of Tennessee in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft Witten made a quiet start to his Cowboys career. In the 15 games he featured in Witten had 35 catches for 347 yards and just the 1 touchdown.
It was during his sophomore season that Witten’s career took flight. He was tied with Keyshawn Johnson for the most touchdowns for the Cowboys with 6. And trailed Johnson by a single yard (980 to 981) to lead the Cowboys. This was the first of 13 consecutive seasons with 60+ targets: He’s one of only 3 players to ever do this.
The Perennial Pro Bowler and key Cowboy
A great 2004 season earned Witten his first Pro Bowl selection. The first of 7 consecutive. Through his career Witten was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times, the most ever by a tight end.
Witten saw numerous “changes of the guard” at the Cowboys. From legendary coach Bill Parcels, who drafted him, through Wade Philips tenure and finally Jason Garretts years at the helm. Witten lead the Cowboys in receptions for 7 seasons, including 110 receptions in 2012. The most by a tight end, ever.
The Record Breaker
As well as the few above, here’s more of the plethora of records that Jason Witten holds.
- 4th all time in receptions (1228), behind only Jerry Rice (1549), Larry Fitzgerald (1423) and Tony Gonzalez (1325).
- 2nd all time receptions for tight ends (to Gonzalez).
- 2nd all time receiving yards (13046) for a tight end, again behind Gonzalez (15,127)
- The most games ever played by a tight end (271), 25th of all players.
- 11 All Pro selections most ever for a tight end.
- 229 consecutive games most ever for a tight end.
- Most career receptions (1215), yards (12,977) and appearances (255) in Cowboys history.
To Retire or not Retire?
After 15 seasons, Witten called it quits. And following in the footsteps of friend and former Cowboys Tony Romo, head into the commentary booth for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. It didn’t work out, ESPN’s three man booth was busy and at times quite bad. With the retirement gig not going great and missing football, Witten returned to the Cowboys in 2019. Despite having a year off, he had 63 receptions, 529 yards and 4 touchdowns.
A year in Las Vegas in Silver and Black would be Witten’s final season. Playing behind Pro Bowl Raider Darren Waller, it was never going to be a huge season for Witten, but he added 16 further appearances, 69 yards and 2 touchdowns to his incredible resume.
On a Personal Note…
I’ve been a Cowboys fan for as long as I can remember and followed them pretty intensely since around 2005. Jason Witten has been a mainstay of my sporting experience since my teens. Ever present, Witten was happy to never be THE man… like Romo, TO, Dez Bryant and more recently Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot were/are. Happy to grind away as the hard working, incredibly talented, driven player he was. Happy to quietly go about his business, consistently performing at a very high level, giving everything he had for the Cowboys.
I’ve been fortunate to see him play live four times, with him scoring twice. I was also at his first Monday Night Football game back at AT&T stadium in Dallas. I can’t put into words the noise made and emotion felt when they played a tribute to Witten on the ridiculously larger than life big screen. Incredible. One hell of a career, for hell of a Cowboy.