About six weeks ago, national ESPN show “The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz” had a segment titled “Compilers,” in which the cast discussed professional players who had put together Hall of Fame stat lines in their respective sports, however did so simply because of how many seasons they had on their resume. At the beginning of the segment, one producer of the show humorously sets fire to Nolan Ryan’s career because he only put together a 324-292 record in 26 seasons. As the discussion moves forward, the topic expands to Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Adrian Beltre- three Hall of Fame careers that saw a lot of seasons, but had less than stellar career averages once they retiredz. Fortunately, ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian joined the show and put the discussion to bed before it could get too far off the rails. His argument was that these players not only put together Hall of Fame- caliber stat lines during their professional tenure, but had all changed the sport or their respective positions in some way as well.
To listen to the segment, click this link.
Kurkjian’s contribution should have changed the direction of the conversation, or even put it to bed entirely. But if you’ve ever listened or watched the show, you know that logic and reason does not win the day on the Dan LeBatard show- and that’s ok, because the “marching band to nowhere” which is LeBatard is what makes their show so fun to listen to.
But suddenly Jason Witten’s name was thrown in the mix, and the fun came to an abrupt end.
The segment on Witten is very brief, but it wasn’t the first time I heard that said about Witten’s career. The moment I heard them wonder aloud if 82 was a compiler, I immediately went into defensive mode, and wanted to pick up the phone and make a call to the show. From a fan perspective, having to defend the Cowboys can often be an exhausting task (especially living around as many Houston fans as I do), but here we go again. They went too far this time, and I wish the LeBatard cast had just listened to Kurkjian from the get go; It would have saved me the trouble of having to ridiculously justify Jason Witten’s Hall of Fame resume, as if anybody ever would ever be crazy enough to question it. USA Today’s “For the Win” even wrote a piece two days after the show, absolutely laying waste to Witten’s career, colorfully labeling him a compiler, only without using the word itself.
So we’ll be brief about this- Courtesy of NFL.com, here are career stats for a handful of TEs, two of which have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and three others which are a safe bet for being inducted at some point in the future.
Shannon Sharpe (1990-2003)- 14 seasons- 4-time first-team All-Pro, 8-time Pro Bowler 3 Super Bowl rings (XXXII, XXXIII, XXXV) 204 games – 815 catches, 10,060 yards (12.3 ypc), 62 TDs- 49.3 YPG- 2011 HoF Inductee
Charlie Sanders (1968-77)- 10 seasons- 3-time first-team All-Pro, 7-time Pro Bowler 128 games – 336 catches, 4,817 yards (14.3 ypc), 31 TDs- 37.6 YPG- 2007 HoF Inductee
Tony Gonzalez (1997-2013)- 17 seasons- 6-time first-team All-Pro, 14-time Pro Bowler 270 games – 1,325 catches, 15,127 yards (11.4 ypc), 111 TDs- 56 YPG
Antonio Gates (2003-current)- 16 seasons- 3-time first-team All-Pro, 8-time Pro Bowler 220 games – 927 catches, 11,508 yards (12.4 ypc), 114 TDs- 52.3 YPG
Rob Gronkowski (2010-current)- 9 seasons- 4-time first-team All-Pro, 5-time Pro Bowler 2 Super Bowl Rings (XLIX, LI) 102 games – 474 catches, 7,179 yards (15.1 ypc), 76 TDs- 70.4 YPG
Place Jason Witten’s numbers next to these, and you’ll see a similar story:
Jason Witten- 15 seasons- 2-time first-team All-Pro, 11-time Pro Bowler 239 games – 1,152 catches, 12,448 yards (10.8 ypc), 68 TDs- 52.08 YPG
The stats speak for themselves, and 82 was a far more decorated Pro-Bowler than any others on the list. The results across the board are fairly the same, with the exception of Gronkowski being the only outlier, and we may see him vying for Tony Gonzalez’s spot at the top by the time he calls it a career. But in addition to offensive production, at the height of his game Witten was also statistically one of the best pass blockers in pro football as well. ProFootballFocus.com did a wonderful piece on pass blocking efficiency, and to see the player rankings for 2011 and where Witten falls on that list, click the link here.
In the case of whether or not Jason Witten has earned a spot in the Hall of Fame, the writing is clearly on the wall. Dan Lebatard- your show is awesome and you all are the best in the business at what you do- But there really is no arguing whether or not Witten has earned his spot in Canton.
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