Cowboys’ Jones lauds Witten as coach-in-waiting

INDIANAPOLIS — Jason Witten is returning to play his 16th season with the Dallas Cowboys, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the tight end can be viewed as a coach-in-waiting.

“Well, I think you can … and, by the way, that’s always been there and it’s always, his style has been there,” Jones said on ESPN’s NFL Live on Friday. “He is John Wayne. And he is John Wayne in our dressing room. He’s John Wayne in the one-on-one drills in the end zone in the dark, rough days of two-a-days. So he’s the real deal. I like that for football. I’d like to think that’s what’s going to be here in the future, whether that’s on the field or coaching.”

Witten left ESPN’s Monday Night Football after one season on Thursday to return to the Cowboys as a player because, as he said in a statement, “the fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong.”

He expressed an interest in coaching throughout his playing career. In his return to the playing field, he wants to serve as a mentor to the younger players at tight end and on the team in general.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is entering the final year of his contract and will need to win in order to gain a third contract from Jones. In 2014, after three straight 8-8 seasons, Garrett finished 12-4 in the final year of his deal, and he received a five-year, $30 million extension.

In 2017, Witten’s name was linked to the head coaching vacancy at the University of Tennessee, his alma mater.

“Coaching is something I can see myself down the road,” Witten said at the time. “… I have this unbelievable opportunity and I love playing, and I think the people around you can say, ‘Oh, maybe one day he’ll be a good coach and consider something like that.’ Certainly I can see that happening down the road, but no time soon. I’m enjoying loving what I’m doing right now.”

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