Gates or Witten? Who wins the tight end Hall of Fame debate?


Much was written about the Hall of Fame future of retiring Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Jason Witten this week. Some pronounced he was a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer. Talk of Fame Network is not quite as convinced.

Our Hall of Fame hosts Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge, all of whom are long-time Hall of Fame voters with over 40 years combined on the Committee debated not only Witten’s HOF future but also that of the man he may be competing with for first ballot consideration, long-time Chargers’ tight end Antonio Gates.

Unless Gates finds a new home this season, his career seems ready to end along with Witten’s, which would mean they would be first time eligible in the same year, the class of 2023. If that happens, who will prevail or will neither?

Our guys argue the numbers and the possibility that the two cancel each other out if both are on the same ballot. More significantly for Witten, our guys look not at the fact Gates has 927 catches (20th all-time) while Witten’s 1,152 rank fourth all-time but rather at what Gosselin calls “the quality of the catch.’’

One can interpret that many ways but the key ones is the simplest: touchdowns. And on that score our TOF hosts argue, it’s no contest with Gates’ 114 touchdowns sixth all-time and nearly twice that of Witte’s 68, which is 46th all-time.

Also weighing in on the debate on this week’s show is another Hall of Fame voter, Nick Canepa. Canepa is a long-time San Diego Union columnists who has seen nearly all of Gates’ games. Not surprisingly, he sees only one of them as “first ballot’’ and it’s not Witten.

“For five or six years of his career, I never saw anyone better,’’ Canepa says of Gates.

Pressed by our guys, Canepa conceded another ex-Charger, Kellen Winslow, was probably better than Gates when both were at their height but adds, “Not by much.’’

Winslow has been often credited with having revolutionized how the tight end was used because of the way Don Coryell ran San Diego’s offense. Winslow was one of the first tight ends to primarily function as a wide receiver without the designation, opening the door for guys like Witten and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who will be eligible this year and comes armed with the second most receptions in NFL history at 1,325 and the seventh most touchdowns with 111.

Traditionally it has taken several years for a tight end to reach Canton, including the greatest to play the position, which our guys would argue was John Mackey. Will that be the case for Gonzalez this year and Witten and Gates in the future? You can hear our guys debate the pros and cons this week on SB Nation Radio or by visiting our website, and clicking on the helmet icon.

In addition to that debate, the guys continue their trip through the NFL to find each team’s most deserving candidates NOT in the Hall. This week that takes us to both Indianapolis and Baltimore to ferret out which Colts are most deserving. Edgerrin James? Reggie Wayne? Dwight Freeney? Big Daddy Lipscomb? Mike Curtis? Bobby Boyd? Tune in to find out who gets the nod.

There’s all that and much more including Ron’s Borges or Bogus segment which argues that the salary cap number of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks is not quite in line with the numbers on the recently signed contracts of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan. You’ll be surprised to learn how much of the cap is too much for a top level quarterback to command if your team hopes to win a Super Bowl.

To hear it all just tune in to your local SB Nation Radio Network station Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. Central time or go to or download our free podcast at iTunes or TuneIn app to listen whenever you’d like..