The Pro Football Hall of Fame honors greats in NFL history. Will Jason Witten enter on the first ballot, like only 79 others have?
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is an exclusive club. It opened its doors to honor the greats in NFL history in 1963, and only 318 — including the class of 2018 — are enshrined. Even more exclusive is the number of players who have entered on the first ballot. That number totals 79.
All of the men who got in the first year of eligibility — including Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, and Brian Urlacher (who get in this year) — deserved the honor. Does Jason Witten, though?
Witten leaves as the tight end with the second-most receptions all-time and fourth among all receivers. He is also second in yards among tight ends and 21st all-time among all players.
It’s tough to compare Witten to anyone else who got into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, even in his own organization. As of right now, there are only two positions that have never had a first-ballot Hall of Famer: punter and tight end. Right now, there are eight tight ends in the Hall of Fame, and all of them had a significant role in changing the way the game was played from the position.
It took Shannon Sharpe eight years to be elected to the Hall, and he deserved that honor. In Witten’s own organization, Michael Irvin — a player who played an integral role in three Super Bowl titles — waited eight years for enshrinement.
Witten was a special tight end. In his prime, he garnered attention like a wide receiver. He was a tremendous player, but he’d be the first member of the Cowboys to enter on the first ballot without a championship ring.
In the end, you have to be transcendent to be enshrined on the first ballot. Witten is absolutely deserving of a gold jacket, and he’ll get one, but getting in on his first try will be an uphill battle if history tells us anything.