Bringing back Jason Witten
Now this doesn’t quite fit the timeline as Jason Witten came out of retirement in February and the draft happened in April, but Witten only showed up to practice with the team in June. Regardless of when it happened, how did this negatively impact the team?
At the end of last season, tight end Blake Jarwin was earning more snaps as an athletic, receiving threat and tight end Dalton Schultz was starting to show his value as a blocker in addition to being a receiver. The expectation was they would grow into their roles in their second season together.
Then Jason Witten decided to come back. According to the coaching staff, he was only supposed to play 20-30 percent of the time allowing for the continued growth of Jarwin and Schultz. However, with reports that Witten was the best run blocker of the three we quickly realized 20-30 percent was going to be more like 60-70 percent.
Oddly that 60-70 percent was still an underestimation. Witten has played more than 80 percent of the Cowboys offensive snaps this season. This is bad for a few reasons.
Reason 1: Jason Witten is averaging 1.8 yards after the catch this season
Jason Witten is 6’6″ which means he’s 2.17 yards tall. If he were to fall directly forward after the catch, he would be averaging more yards after the catch than he is right now. The relative lack of athleticism from Witten is not helping the Cowboys maximize their yardage and is making it difficult for the Cowboys to attack the middle of the field.
Reason 2: For a team that preaches meritocracy, they haven’t acted accordingly
Jason Witten’s Hall of Fame resume proceeds him, but given the current state of his athleticism and the need to develop those behind him for the future, the Cowboys have not handled this situation correctly.
Last year, Blake Jarwin had a career day against the New York Giants where he caught passes for over 100 yards and 3 touchdowns. While he wasn’t productive in their following two playoff games, the TE1 position was rightfully his. Dalton Schultz was also rightly TE2 filling in nicely for an injured Geoff Swaim.
Jason Witten was expected to come back and be a mentor to Jarwin and his understudy Schultz. (Side point, Witten’s leadership has been overrated as he’s notably stubborn when it comes to helping those in the TE room)
However, as the offseason progressed the Cowboys decided they would become complacent playing the player who provides little athletic upside because he needs the least amount of development.
Maybe Cole Beasley was right and people shouldn’t have scoffed at him after leaving Dallas?
Hate on Beasley all you want, but the current situation regarding Witten certainly begs the question. I understand wanting Witten to go out with his head held high but was playing him more than any other tight end on your depth chart the right way to do that?
You’ve now inhibited the development of your young players and caused unnecessary drama and tension in the process. What else could go wrong?