It’s hard to believe that a player drafted by Bill Parcells still remained on the Dallas Cowboys roster, but Jason Witten’s retirement brought “Tuna” back into discussions this week. Witten, the third-round pick of Parcells’ first draft class in Dallas, takes with him Bill’s imprint on the franchise.
With apologies to long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who joined the Cowboys in 2005 under Parcells, Jason Witten represents the last major player from that era. He also represented everything that Bill ever preached about professionalism and leadership.
Witten came into the NFL with names you certainly remember; Terence Newman, Al Johnson, and Bradie James. While Newman is remarkably still playing, Johnson’s been gone from football since 2008 and James since 2012.
Even players drafted years later by Parcells, such as DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and Jason Hatcher, hung up their cleats well before now. The Dez Bryant era on spanned about half of Witten’s career.
If that doesn’t drive the point home, this will. Jason Witten’s incredible career spanned from Quincy Carter’s final season to Dak Prescott’s second year.
The juxtaposition of Jason Witten and Quincy Carter on a roster together says a lot about the change that Bill Parcells brought to the Dallas Cowboys. Witten caught his first NFL passes from a quarterback who will always be remembered for personal weakness and wasted talent; two things Jason could never be accused of.
Before Tuna came along, the Cowboys were in a quagmire of failure. They’d gone 5-11 for three consecutive seasons and poor drafting hadn’t left them with much reason for hope.
Bill Parcells changed the culture and direction of the franchise forever, and perhaps no single player he added accomplished that more than Jason Witten.
Shows like “Hard Knocks” and “All or Nothing” have given us looks into the locker room like never before. For the Dallas Cowboys, those looks have always shown just what kind of leader Witten’s been.
Some of it was just the makeup of the man. But some of it surely came from his first NFL head coach.
Even though the Parcells Era Cowboys and the foundation created never resulted in a Super Bowl, it gave us so much that we’ve enjoyed over the last 15 years. It gave us guys like Witten, Ware, and Tony Romo, who are as endeared to us as names like Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin despite their lack of postseason glory.
Watching Jason ride off into the sunset just gives me reason to look back on the man who drafted him. Bill Parcells’ four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys will never go down with the tenures of Tom Landry or Jimmy Johnson, but they were very meaningful despite the brevity.
There have been a lot of “thank yous” thrown Witten’s way this week, and rightfully so. But this one goes to Big Tuna (Parcells, not Jim Halpert) for giving us Jason and other players we can look back on so fondly.