(Witten photos courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
Talk of Fame Network
John Mackey was named the tight end on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team. It took him 15 years to get into the Hall of Fame.
Mike Ditka and Kellen Winslow were named the tight ends on the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. It took Ditka 12 years and Winslow three to get their busts in Canton.
So how long will it take current Cowboys tight end Jason Witten to get in?
In our weekly poll, we asked our Talk of Fame Network listeners and readers to select the greatest tight end of all time, and Witten won in a landslide. He received a whopping 60.4 percent of the vote to easily outdistance Tony Gonzalez at 19.8 percent. Winslow received support from 10.3 percent of the voters with Ditka, Mackey and Shannon Sharpe all in single digits.
Witten is in his 14th season with the Cowboys and ranks ninth on the all-time receiving list with 1,069. If he catches 26 more passes in the final six games of this season, he’ll jump all the way up to No. 5 on that list. Witten holds the NFL record for catches by a tight end in a single season with 110 in 2012 and has four 1,000-yard seasons. He has been voted to 10 Pro Bowls but was selected first-team All-Pro just twice.
Gonzalez ranks second on the all-time receiving list behind Jerry Rice with 1,325. He also ranks fifth in yardage with 15,127 and sixth in touchdowns with 111. Witten ranks 28th in receiving yards and 70th in touchdowns. Gonzalez also went to 14 Pro Bowls and was a first-team all-pro six times over his 17-year career. He becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018.
Our Talk of Fame Network hosts didn’t vote for either Witten or Gonzalez. Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge – old school that they are – all cast ballots for Mackey.
“Mackey played tight end when it was not a glorified receiver position,” Borges said. “He’d have every record if he was playing today’s game. He was dynamic and explosive.”
Mackey caught 331 passes for 5,236 yards and 38 touchdowns in his 10-year career. He went to five Pro Bowls and was voted to the NFL’s 1960’s all-decade team. He also caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas in Super Bowl V.
“As a childhood Colts fan, I confess I’m biased,” Judge said. “But he was the perfect combination of a pass catcher who could block in an era when most tight ends were little more than transplanted tackles. There’s a reason they give the Mackey Award to the best tight end in college football. There was nobody better.”