Our not-so-long national nightmare is over. One year after Cowboys tight end Jason Witten retired to take the Monday Night Football announcing gig, the Cowboys announced Thursday that they have signed Witten back onto the team.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the deal is for one year and $3.5 million—roughly within a million of the $4 million to $4.5 million Witten was reportedly making annually at the network. Witten said in a statement that it was his decision to return to the field.
“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” Witten said in a statement. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt.”
ESPN thanked Witten in a statement shortly after his decision was announced.
Witten, who turns 37 in May, was not even close to his prime form in his final season in 2017 despite earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. (His 560 yards in 2017 were his fewest since he was a rookie in 2003.) He’s unlikely to be a difference-maker in 2019 either, though he might still be an upgrade over Dallas’s current tight ends, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers, Dalton Schultz, and Blake Jarwin.
But forget the football aspect for a moment. This is a win for America, which will no longer be subjected to phrases like, “Wow, what a football player,” or Witten’s confusing his idioms as expert analysis. (As Witten told reporters about his tenure in November, “there’s been some flubs.”) It’s a win for Booger McFarland, who presumably can now be allowed inside the broadcast booth. It’s a win for fans who couldn’t see the field because of Booger’s cart. It’s a win for MNF play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore, who can now focus full time on his annunciation without performing verbal triage for three hours. It’s also a win for Witten. He had the courage to try something new, and he was so bad at the job that the blame falls more on those who hired him than it does on him. Now he will return to Dallas and resume the nearly criticism-free career he had for 15 years as one of the most beloved sports icons in Texas. Hopefully the next time he retires, he can retire in peace and out of the spotlight.
There are still questions about the move: Can Witten still have an impact for the Cowboys at 37? Who will be the Monday Night Football color commentator in 2019? Will ESPN auction off the Booger-mobile and donate the proceeds to a charity that trains athletes to become announcers? And will Witten’s hair, which magically grew back last season, recede once again after it’s been under a helmet for four months? Only time will tell.