Even if Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten never steps foot onto a Super Bowl field, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame when he retires.
It's the classic debate that has led people to question the likes of Dan Marino, Dick Butkus and Steve Largent's place in history in the past and will plague Witten if he never wins the big one.
At age 30, there's no question that there's plenty of time for Witten to join the Super Bowl champion club. But even if Witten never hoists the Lombardi Trophy, the feats he already has accomplished—and the ones he'll come to—will stamp his bid to Canton, Ohio.
The Tennessee alum is an eight-time Pro Bowler; he owns the Cowboys team record for career receptions and owns the record for most receptions in a single season for a tight end. Oh, and his current ranking of No. 3 all-time among tight ends in receptions is his for the taking over the next years of his career.
Adding to his career milestones is the fact the guy has missed just one game in his NFL career when he was recovering from a broken jaw. Witten is as tough and durable as they come—something he showed this season when he played through a ruptured spleen to begin the season.
Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells told ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer back in November that Witten was "one of the best to ever play. One of the greatest Cowboys." That's pretty high praise from a Hall of Fame-worthy coach.
The argument that Witten shouldn't make the Hall of Fame if he never wins a Super Bowl with the Cowboys or another team is a weak one at best. Super Bowls are won by teams and not individuals. Individual efforts like an Adam Vinatieri field goal or Larry Brown interception can help a team win the big game but not without help.
Great players like Marino, Jim Kelly and Butkus weren't held out of Canton because of a lack of rings and Witten is worthy of being mentioned with those names. With several seasons left in his NFL career, the Cowboy has already proven to be as good or better than the likes of Shannon Sharpe, Jay Novacek and Antonio Gates.
Between the three aforementioned names, Sharpe had three 1,000-yard seasons, Novacek had none and Gates currently has two. Witten has four in the past six years.
The fact that Witten still has plenty of time to chase the record books in a Super Bowl title means he has the ability to become one of the top three tight ends of all time. His resume entering his 11th NFL season in 2013 already has him Canton-worthy.