Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten retires from NFL. Is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer?

Jason Witten, right, talks with Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett after Witten's retirement ceremony.
Jason Witten, right, talks with Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett after Witten's retirement ceremony. Jchristopher@star-telegram.com

Now that Jason Witten is calling it a career, the next question becomes his Hall of Fame status.

Witten certainly has the statistics worthy of entry into Canton – 1,152 career receptions, 12,448 receiving yards, 11 Pro Bowls. He’s the franchise leader in games played (239) and games started (179).

But is that enough to make Witten a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2023? Witten announced his retirement Thursday afternoon at The Star in Frisco.

The knocks against Witten would be his touchdown total of 68 and his lack of postseason success. Witten never became a red-zone threat like other tight ends of his era such as Tony Gonzalez (111), Antonio Gates (114) or even Rob Gronkowski (76).

And Witten was never part of a team that advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs.

Still, Witten’s numbers are hard to ignore as he walks away as one of just 14 members of the 1,000-catch club.

He’ll earn induction at some point, but it’s a question of whether it’ll be on his first try. Plus, tight ends have traditionally not had an easy path into the Hall of Fame.

There are just eight tight ends who have been inducted – Kellen Winslow, Jackie Smith, Ozzie Newsome, Charlie Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, John Mackey, Mike Ditka and Dave Casper.

Gonzalez is expected to be the next tight end inducted as he’s eligible in 2019.

Either way, Witten is a Hall of Famer to everyone within the Cowboys organization.

"He’s one of the best and most complete tight ends ever to play this game. The stats and the credentials speak for themselves," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "The games played, the games started, the 11 Pro Bowls, the 1,100 catches, 12,000 yards, they don’t really begin to tell the story. Over the last 15 years, he’s played virtually every play. He doesn’t come out of the game.

"We ask him to block on the line scrimmage, point of attack, we’re running the ball behind you. We ask you to block on the backside, motion you into the backfield, lead up on a linebacker. We ask you to pass protect against the best rushers in the league. We ask you to win as a pass receiver, short, medium, deep. We ask you to make all the critical plays in all the critical moments. That doesn’t really tell the story either.

"He’s simply the best example I know of what you want a football player and a person to be on and off the field. The number of times I told young players, veteran players, every player, watch No. 82. Do it like he does it. It was incredible."

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram