IRVING, Texas – One mark stood above the various accolades and achievements earned by
In addition to taking home the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and the Bob Lilly Award, and setting the Cowboys’ record for all-time receptions, Witten also set the single-season tight end record for receptions in a season with 110.
Breaking any tight end record set by Tony Gonzalez is an almost unachievable feat, and it will take a special finish to Witten’s career for the Pro Bowler to reach the other major records held by Gonzalez.
Witten’s 110 receptions broke his personal best of 96 catches, set in 2007, and surpassed the previous top mark held by Gonzalez, who finished the 2004 season with 102 catches.
Undoubtedly, Witten will go down as one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. But until Gonzalez actually retires, which the Falcons’ tight end indicated could be a possibility this offseason, Witten has got a long way to go to reach any of the major tight end marks.
Despite the consistency displayed by the reliable Cowboys’ tight end, he still needs 59 touchdowns, 436 receptions and 5,320 yards to reach Gonzalez, who leads all tight ends in league history in each of those categories.
Longevity will play a major role. Witten actually reached the 700-career receptions mark nine games faster than Gonzalez and the 8,000-career receiving yards mark two games quicker. Witten also hit the 800-reception mark 12 games faster than Gonzalez, whose greatest attribute might have been his ability to stay on the field for so long.
Gonzalez has played 16 NFL seasons, never missing more than one game in any of those years. Witten just got through his 10th professional season, also never missing more than one game.
Based on his average of 80.6 catches, 894.8 yards and 4.4 touchdowns per season, Witten would need to play 5.4 more seasons to equal Gonzalez’s receptions mark, 5.9 more seasons to reach the receptions mark and more than 13 seasons to reach the touchdowns mark.
Barring an incredible increase in his number of touchdowns and red zone proficiency the next few years, topping the touchdown chart among tight ends might be out of reach. But, the other two statistics certainly aren’t.
Witten only needs nine more catches to surpass Shannon Sharpe for second place among tight ends in receptions and 1,112 more yards to surpass Sharpe in receiving yards for second place all-time behind Gonzalez.
The Cowboys’ tight end should be able to accomplish both of those feats in the next couple of years, and his longevity will determine just how far he can climb up the all-time tight ends charts.