clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cowboys news: Cowboys legend Jason Witten retires, NFL world reacts

New, comments

For 15 years, Jason Witten was the “Gold Standard” for the Dallas Cowboys and yesterday he retired from the NFL.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

For 15 Years, Witten Was The Real GOAT; Nobody Has Done it Better - Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten personified everything that being a Dallas Cowboy meant and now he rides into the sunset.

So it’s a sad, sad day to be writing a farewell column about Jason Witten.

I’ve had the privilege of covering this team for 20 years, and in that span, I’ve been there for the end of Aikman, Irvin and Deion. I had a few years there with Emmitt and Woodson and, of course, this latest group with D-Ware and Romo and Dez.

No disrespect to any of them, but Jason Witten is by far the best football player I’ve ever been around.

I didn’t say the most talented. Didn’t say the most gifted. And I guess he’s not the most accomplished, considering that elusive Super Bowl ring sadly never made it his way.

But when it comes to being a football player, Jason Witten is the best I’ve ever seen.

A legend retires, Jason Witten’s Cowboys legacy - Michael Strawn, Blogging The Boys
The 15-year vet retires as the modern day version of Mr. Cowboy.

It’s difficult to capture everything Jason Witten gave to Dallas Cowboys fans, coaches and teammates over his 15-year career. His on-field accomplishments are numerous and we’ll document them all. However, his contributions as a leader and role model is perhaps where he made his biggest impact. He was named the 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year. His influence hasn’t been limited to the Cowboys either, as Witten has become an outspoken speaker on the issue of domestic abuse.

Jason Witten retires from the Dallas Cowboys inspires reaction across NFL - ESPN Staff
Former teammates and even some former opponents paid their respects to the legendary Cowboys stalwart, Jason Witten.

Durable, dependable Jason Witten leaves Cowboys as the consummate leader - Clarence E. Hill, Star-Telegram
One thing was certain about the Dallas Cowboys, you could always count on Jason Witten to lead the men into battle.

Hundreds of teammates and employees lined the entrance and halls of the Cowboys headquarters at the Star in Frisco as Witten made his entrance with family and kids in tow for the final time.

A sure-fire future Hall of Famer based on 11 Pro Bowls, 12 franchise records, a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and recording more catches than all but three people in the history of the game, Witten announced his retirement during an emotional news conference. He is leaving to join ESPN as an analyst for Monday Night Football.

Remembering Jason Witten: His Cowboys career-defining play, Romo connection, playoff disappointment and more - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
There is no doubt that Jason Witten's legacy in the NFL is secure and unquestioned.

Jason Witten’s honored place in Cowboys history is so secure that the team memorialized the quintessential play of his 15-year career well before he even considered retirement.

The can’t-miss image is located in the heart of the club’s headquarters at The Star, displayed up high for all to see, between the locker room and team auditorium. The tight end powers down the field without a helmet on a 53-yard reception after two Philadelphia defenders could only send the headgear flying, unable to bring him down.

Witten, who came up with blood streaming from his left nostril, has called the play in November 2007 “the legacy of what I would want a play to look like.”

Jason Garrett, The “Y-Option” Route & The Essence Of Jason Witten’s Career - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Jason Garrett fought back tears as he spoke about the defining play of Jason Witten’s career with the Cowboys.

When he wasn’t choking back tears, Garrett shared a story from Witten’s twilight years, revolving around the route that helped turn him into a perennial Pro Bowler.

“This was his play – signature play,” Garrett said. “He’s got over 1,100 catches – probably half of them were on Y-Option. He caught 18 balls against the Giants a few years ago – probably half of those were on Y-Option.”

“It’s one of the great givens in all of sports,” Garrett said. “They say Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook was the greatest given – I’ll put Witten’s Y-Option against it any day of the week. We were down by three, we were on the plus 42-yard, and we said ‘We’re going for it,’” Garrett said. “This was the play of the game. We called Y-option.”

The Jason Witten Show - 4th and 6 versus Detroit - YouTube
Here's the play Garrett was talking about, only this time it's narrated by Jason Witten himself.

Tribute to a Dallas Cowboys legend: Top 10 Jason Witten moments [VIDEO] - DannyPhantom, Blogging The Boys
The Cowboys future Hall of Famer tight end has officially retired from football. What are your favorite Jason Witten moments?

There are three certainties in life - death, taxes, and that the toast will always fall jelly-side down. Oh yeah, there’s one more - Jason Witten will always be where you expect him to be when you throw the ball. The Cowboys tight end has been such a reliable target over his 15-year career. He’s been a consummate professional, influential teammate, and just an all-around unprecedented figure for this organization throughout his career. In a way, he’s been this generation’s Roger Staubach. Great player, great teammate, and great person in the community. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer without question and only three other players (Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez, and Larry Fitzgerald) have caught more passes that Witten.

Will Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten make Hall of Fame on first try - Todd Archer, ESPN
No tight end has ever made it on his first try, but Jason Witten deserves to be the first guy to do it.

Todd Archer, ESPN Cowboys reporter: Tight ends generally don’t make it as first-ballot Hall of Famers, but Witten should. The numbers are undeniable. He is fourth in the history of the NFL in receptions. The only tight end with more receptions and yards is Gonzalez. Is there a doubt Gonzalez won’t make it into the Hall of Fame on his first try? If the Cowboys’ lack of playoff success hurts Witten down the road, then it should hurt Gonzalez as well. He was part of one playoff win. Witten had two. Witten’s greatness is not just in his 1,152 catches and 12,448 yards -- it was in his consistency and durability over a 15-year career that made him one of the all-time greats. He was there year after year, game after game, play after play. He recorded at least 60 catches in 14 of his 15 seasons. Only Jerry Rice and Gonzalez have more 60-catch seasons. Tight end has become a glorified wide receiver position, but Witten was a throwback. He could block. The Cowboys would have him block elite pass-rushers at times without help. He did his job in the running game too. Witten didn’t have flash to his game, but he had a ton of substance. The type of substance that should make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Royalty-caliber retirement scene for Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten - David Humphrey, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The scene for Jason Witten's retirement at The Star in Frisco was fitting for what many consider to be Cowboys' royalty.

The people began lining up early in the atrium of The Star in Frisco on Thursday.

On the floor below, there was another line of people that filled the star walk, on both sides, leading into the training table area where the news conference to announce Jason Witten’s retirement was held.

They all wanted to get a glimpse, a handshake or at the very least a close look at Witten, who after 15 seasons, all with the Cowboys, is leaving the game.

After taking the royalty-like walk to the training table area, a sea of media awaited along with his teammates. The entire Star organization, the hundreds of people who filled the walkways, also joined him for the ceremony.

Jason Witten has never cared much for the spotlight. As Cowboys' TE, he was never able to escape it. - Brandon George, SportsDay
Jason Witten was never the guy who cared to be in the spotlight but when you're a Cowboy, everyone knows your name.

“Somewhere along the way, and this is so easy to get lost,” Witten said. “We’re all focused on results and they are important, but what you learn as you get older is that the journey is the reward. If I’ve learned anything along the way in the last 15 years, it’s that people forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people won’t forget how you made them feel.”

If Witten would have played in 2018, he would have become the first Cowboys player ever to take the field for 16 seasons.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten retires after 15 seasons - Kevin Patra, NFL.com
Jason Witten will, in fact, hang up his cleats but his impact will be felt in Dallas forever.

“There’s an old saying in pro football: The circus doesn’t stay in town forever,” Witten said. “And when you’re young, I think it takes on a meaning that, when your opportunity comes, grab it. And as you get older, I think you realize there’s a deeper meaning. No man knows when his time has come to walk away. And I’m no different. It’s been said, whether right or wrong, it’s better three hours too soon, than a minute too late. The man who insists on seeing the perfect clearness before he decides, he never decides. Accept life, and you cannot accept regret.

”After much self-reflection, prayer and faith, today I’ve decided that the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas Cowboys and retire from the National Football League.”