Although Jason Witten hasn’t officially announced his retirement, the Cowboys tight end reportedly has made up his mind that he’s calling it quits after 15 seasons.
The Dallas great will join ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” booth for the 2018 NFL season, according to multiple reports.
While it was somewhat of a surprise that news of Witten’s decision came Friday amid the NFL draft at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, it followed weeks of reports that he was interested in a television analyst job.
Still, the team was stunned by the move, according to Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Hill said the veteran “blindsided” the Dallas front office, comparing it to the way the Cowboys treated wide receiver Dez Bryant when they released him April 13.
Cowboys were not prepared for Jason Witten to retire. The irony is he blindsided them late in process like they did Dez Bryant. What will make you laugh will make you cry. He did what was best for him in terms of timing. It ain't personal its business.
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) April 27, 2018
After the 2017 season, Witten had said he’d be returning for another year.
“Oh, I’m coming back. I love playing this game too much and I know I can play at a high level,” he told The Dallas Morning News’ Kate Hairopoulos.
But within weeks there were reports that he was being considered for prime-time NFL broadcasting gigs.
In early March, Michael McCarthy wrote in Sporting News that Fox Sports, which had great success last year with rookie announcer Tony Romo, was pursuing Romo’s former teammate to be the analyst for its new “Thursday Night Football” package.
“Executives from Fox are intrigued by the possibility the popular, square-jawed Witten could replicate the rookie TV success of Romo, his close friend and former road roommate,” wrote McCarthy. “He’d have the advantage, like Romo and [Troy] Aikman, of broadcasting to a built-in, national fan base that loves the Cowboys.”
In mid-April, the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported that Witten had auditioned for the “Monday Night Football” job, which came open when the Oakland Raiders lured Jon Gruden back to coaching.
ESPN reports that Witten is still considering his decision, with an announcement expected Wednesday.
His record of accomplishment on the football field makes Witten an almost certain first-ballot Hall of Famer. He ranks fourth in NFL history in receptions with 1,152; only Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald have more. He has 12,448 receiving yards, second all time among tight ends, behind only Gonzalez.
Witten, who will be 36 in a few days, has a wife and four young children with whom he clearly loves to spend time.
Given all of that, you have to wonder: Why would the Cowboys feel “blindsided” about his decision hang up his cleats?
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