Note from Paul: I’m going to be honest with you. I wrote this article 6 years ago. But it’s even more true now.
Jason Witten Hall Of Fame? Excuse Me While I Barf
During Monday night’s 34-18 thrashing at the hands of the Chicago Bears, Dallas tight end Jason Witten accumulated one of the more useless 13 catch, 112 yard, one TD performances in recent memory.
As I was listening to the radio call (because I can’t stand the incessant ads on ESPN, and, I’m an old schooler and NFL on radio always gets my juices flowing, I heard Dan Fouts casually mention after a Witten first down catch, pre-tud, that he thought Witten was a lock for the Hall of Fame. And I immediately thought “Dan, I love you – but you couldn’t be more wrong.”
Thanks to the evolution of the tight end, in particular over the last 30 years, allowing Witten into the Hall opens Pandora’s Box in terms who else deserves, and then presumably would, get in.
Currently there are eight modern era tight ends in the NFL Hall of Fame, the lowest amount for any position other than kickers: Dave Casper, Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Ozzie Newsome, Kellen Winslow, Shannon Sharpe, Jackie Smith and Charlie Sanders.
Let’s look at Witten’s stats (as of 2012). 717 catches is 35th of all time, 8,097 yards is 78th, 42 TD is 162nd all time. Two time All Pro. His receptions and yardage totals are relatively high for the tight end position, but the fact that his TD total is so low is representative of the era in which he plays; pass attempts flying around at unprecedented levels in terms of NFL history, so more catches and more yards are just watered down stats.
Witten’s 42 career TUDs on 717 catches is a TD every 17 catches. Ben Coates, also a two time All-Pro like Witten, had 50 TD on 499 catches or one TD per 9.98 catches. Keith Jackson, a three time All-Pro, had 49 TD on 441 catches a TD on every 9 catches.
I’ll allow you to extrapolate what Coates and Jackson’s numbers would be if they got the opportunities Witten did over his career, even just to the current point. Put simply, Witten just isn’t that potent, like my friend Drew Stutsman. And I didn’t even bring up Mark Bavaro. Oops. Since I did, 351 recs and 39 TD is 1 every 9 catches.
If you really want to lose all respect for Witten, look at the career of Todd Christensen.
Christensen’s 42 catches in 1982 was eighth in the entire NFL. So in the era of “run first” football, the next year Christensen has 92 catches and leads the entire NFL. Not only that but he has 12 TD, or a TD every 7.6 catches – insane for a TE in any era but especially in 1984. 1986 he does it again – 95 catches leads the league and 8 TD – a TUD every 11.8 catches. For his career, TC has 41 TD on 461 receptions, or a TD every 11.2.
Another thing that should impede Witten’s HOF enshrinement is that he plays in the same era of two TE’s who will doubtlessly be enshrined – Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. Eight tight ends have been elected all time, so don’t think for a second that three from the same era will make it in; two alone is pushing it.
If Todd Christensen isn’t in the Hall of Fame, no way Witten deserves to be there. I don’t care how many receptions Witten has, most of them were useless – the accumulation of numbers doesn’t make him a special player. Put Ken Dilger in a Cowboys uniform and what’s the difference? Or Ryan Wetnight or any other middling TE you can think of. Is Witten even better than Jay Novacek?
Honestly, it isn’t all his fault – the fault lies in an explosion of passing statistics since the Overlords at the NFL office decided to turn the NFL into the Arena League. High scoring output sells tickets, not running on first and second down, then a 5-yard quick out on third and 4. I miss that – but you little punk kids need QBs with 400 yard, 4 TD passing games.
Tim Brown and Cris Carter are in the exact same position. It used to be that a lot of receptions means you were being productive. But, we all know it’s almost a throw away stat in the modern NFL. So the productivity of Brown and Carter gets skewed because of how the game has changed and both players may never get into the HOF.
So if they can’t, neither should Jason Witten or the NFL Hall of Fame will be compromised.