Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys: Tight Ends

This is part of the series on the All-Time Team of Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys.

There should be little doubt that Jason Witten is the greatest tight end in team history. He currently ranks second in team history in receptions, and he is within 1,000 yards of moving into second place in receiving yards. Even the most vocal fans of Jay Novacek need to give Witten the credit.

In the ESPN poll, Witten received 78.5% of the vote. Here were the totals:

1. Jason Witten (78.5%)
2. Jay Novacek (18.3%)
3. Billy Joe Dupree (2.6%)
4. Doug Cosbie (.6%)

This mostly mirrors the approximate value rankings from Pro-Football-Reference. Here’s a look at all of the tight ends:

Rk From To G Pos AV ?
1 Jason Witten 2003 2010 127 TE 80
2 Billy Joe DuPree 1973 1983 159 TE 71
3 Doug Cosbie 1979 1988 144 TE 55
4 Jay Novacek 1990 1995 95 TE 55
5 Pettis Norman 1962 1970 121 SE 43
6 Eric Bjornson 1995 1999 74 TE 19
7 Mike Ditka 1969 1972 54 TE 17
8 Jean Fugett 1972 1975 52 TE 16
9 Jay Saldi 1976 1982 80 TE 16
10 David LaFleur 1997 2000 60 TE 14
11 Martellus Bennett 2008 2010 46 TE 11
12 Jackie Harris 2000 2001 29 TE 7
13 Billy Truax 1971 1972 18 TE 7
14 Thornton Chandler 1986 1988 43 TE 6
15 Anthony Fasano 2006 2007 32 TE 6
16 Steve Folsom 1987 1989 41 TE 6
17 Daniel Campbell 2003 2005 32 TE 5
18 Todd Fowler 1985 1988 52 TE 5
19 Alfredo Roberts 1991 1992 32 TE 5
20 Robert Awalt 1990 1991 25 TE 4
21 Scott Galbraith 1993 1997 38 TE 4
22 Mike Lucky 1999 2002 46 TE 4
23 Fred Cornwell 1984 1985 30 TE 3
24 Tony Curtis 2007 2008 32 TE 3
25 Tony McGee 2002 2002 16 TE 3
26 Donnie Davis 1962 1962 11 TE 2
27 Ron Howard 1974 1975 22 TE 2
28 John Phillips 2009 2009 16 TE 2
29 Brett Pierce 2004 2005 18 TE 2
30 Jeff Robinson 2003 2004 32 TE 2
31 James Whalen 2002 2002 16 TE 2
32 Tyji Armstrong 1996 1996 16 TE 1
33 Scott Chandler 2010 2010 9 TE 1
34 Hayward Clay 1998 1998 3 TE 1
35 Johnny Huggins 2001 2001 10 TE 1
36 Keith Jennings 1989 1989 10 TE 1
37 O.J. Santiago 2000 2000 11 TE 1
38 Cleo Simmons 1983 1983 11 TE 1
39 Jackie Smith 1978 1978 12 TE 1
40 Kendell Watkins 1995 1995 16 TE 1
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2011.

Fans of the 1980s remember Doug Cosbie well, and he was one of the most dependent receivers of his era. However, he had 40 or more receptions in only three seasons (during each of which he made the Pro Bowl).

Fans of the 1990s remember Jay Novacek, who was the perfect complement to the other offensive weapons. He made five consecutive Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro once. One of his most productive seasons (62 receptions for 705 yards in 1995) was also his last, though.

The first of the two most forgotten of the tights ends featured here is DuPree. He did not have impressive stats by today’s standards, but he developed into one of the league’s best by 1976. He was especially effective in the red zone. His 41 TDs are the most by a Dallas tight end.

The other forgotten tight end didn’t even make my own list when I first posted this survey (he’s listed by his original position of split end on Pro Football Reference). Pettis Norman played nine years in Dallas and stood out as a very dependable blocker.

I am leaving a few others off the list, though you are free to add them. The most notable is Mike Ditka, who had his most productive years with the Bears.

Here are the poll results:

Cosbie, 31%
DuPree, 28%
Novacek, 28%
Pettis Norman, 6%
Anthony Fasano, 3%
Mike Lucky, 3%

  • Timothytrump

    Not sure why Pettis Norman, a starter from 1963-1970 for Dallas, is not listed. Not high in receptions but a dependable blocker. He was part of the Lance Alworth trade that sent Pettis to San Diego for the 1971 season.

  • Anonymous

    He was listed by his original position of split end, and I just completely forgot about him. I will revise the entry to include him. Thanks.

  • I thought Jean Fugett would be a great TE then Billy Joe Dupree came along and basically relegated Fugett to the bench. The Cowboys have certainly been blessed with some great TEs over the years.

  • Anonymous

    Jay Novacek for sure. Anyone catch Troy Aikman’s new gig? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANnlkAeY_Vk&playnext=1&list=PL55C42F8A8664EC56

  • Jim_Cooper

    Troy just might be an underappreciated actor. Ha!