The 1990s were a golden era for the National Football League (NFL). It witnessed the rise of some of the most iconic football players in history. Among these legends were the tight ends who left an indelible mark on the game. In this article, we will talk about the top 10 NFL tight ends from the 1990s, celebrating their contributions, statistics, and the impact they had on the sport.
Top 10 NFL Tight Ends from the 1990s
The 1990s were a time of innovation and excellence for NFL tight ends. Below are the top 10 NFL tight ends from the 1990s.
- Shannon Sharpe
- Ben Coates
- Jay Novacek
- Tony Gonzalez
- Mark Bavaro
- Keith Jackson
- Wesley Walls
- Frank Wycheck
- Eric Green
- Brent Jones
Let’s dive into each player now.
1. Shannon Sharpe
Shannon Sharpe, a true game changer in the world of NFL tight ends, left an indelible mark on the game during the 1990s. His exceptional skills and versatility set him apart as one of the era’s most iconic players.
Shannon Sharpe’s incredible route running made him a nightmare for defenders. Whether he was taking on linebackers, safeties, or cornerbacks, Sharpe’s ability to find openings in the defense was second to none. This precision in his routes made him a favorite target for his quarterbacks and a constant threat in the passing game.
But it wasn’t just his route running that made Sharpe stand out; it was also his exceptional hands. He seemed to have glue for fingers, rarely dropping a pass. Sharpe’s ability to make difficult catches in tight coverage situations often turned into crucial first downs and touchdowns for his team.
Sharpe’s journey in the 1990s took him from the Denver Broncos to the Baltimore Ravens. During this time, he amassed an impressive 10,060 receiving yards and scored 62 touchdowns, making him one of the all-time greats among tight ends. His two Super Bowl victories and eight Pro Bowl selections during the decade further emphasize his exceptional career.
Shannon Sharpe’s influence on the tight end position is still felt in the NFL today. He set the bar high, not just with his athleticism, but also with his charismatic and outspoken personality. Sharpe was more than just a player; he was a dynamic presence on and off the field, making him a true game changer of his time.
2. Ben Coates
Ben Coates was the definition of reliability for the New England Patriots during the 1990s. His presence on the field was a constant source of confidence for his team and quarterbacks.
Coates was not the flashiest tight end of his era, but he didn’t need to be. What he brought to the game was a consistent, steady performance. Quarterbacks, coaches, and fans knew they could count on Coates to make the necessary plays when it mattered most.
His size and catching ability made him a favorite target in the passing game. Coates often found himself in the right place at the right time, creating opportunities for his team. He used his physicality effectively, gaining separation from defenders and securing passes in the red zone.
Ben Coates was a five-time Pro Bowler during the 1990s, highlighting his consistent excellence. He was the kind of player who would move the chains, make the clutch receptions, and contribute to the success of the Patriots during a pivotal decade for the franchise.
Coates’ impact on the Patriots was undeniable, and his reliability made him a fan favorite and a crucial part of the team’s offense.
3. Jay Novacek
Jay Novacek was a key figure in the Dallas Cowboys’ dynasty during the 1990s, contributing to the team’s three Super Bowl victories. His versatility as a tight end made him an invaluable asset to America’s Team.
One of the standout qualities of Jay Novacek was his ability to both block and catch passes effectively. He was a complete tight end, capable of fulfilling various roles within the offense. Whether it was providing extra protection for Troy Aikman or being a reliable target in the passing game, Novacek was a Swiss Army knife for the Cowboys.
Novacek’s sure-handedness and precise route running made him a favored target for Aikman. Their connection on the field was a key factor in the Cowboys’ success. During the 1990s, he accumulated over 3,500 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns, showcasing his impact on the team’s offense.
But it wasn’t just his on-field performance that made him special; it was his ability to rise to the occasion in high-pressure situations. Novacek’s contributions in crucial moments and his ability to come through in the playoffs made him an indispensable part of the Cowboys’ dynasty.
His two All-Pro selections and five Pro Bowl appearances during the 1990s highlight his consistent excellence. Jay Novacek’s legacy with the Cowboys is firmly embedded in the team’s history, as he played a pivotal role in one of the most successful periods for the franchise.
4. Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez burst onto the NFL scene in 1997 when he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, and despite his relatively short stint in the 1990s, his impact was undeniable. He was a tight end who would go on to become one of the greatest of all time.
Gonzalez was a true rookie sensation. In his very first season, he recorded an impressive 33 receptions for 368 yards and 2 touchdowns. His arrival signaled the emergence of a new breed of tight ends who not only excelled at blocking but were also exceptional receiving threats.
Throughout the late 1990s, Gonzalez’s athleticism, agility, and versatility set him apart. He had the ability to stretch the field and create mismatches against defenders. His unique blend of size and speed made him a difficult cover for linebackers and safeties.
In a relatively short time, Tony Gonzalez laid the foundation for his illustrious career that would extend well into the 2000s. He was not only an outstanding tight end but a trailblazer who redefined the position and paved the way for future generations of tight ends in the NFL.
5. Mark Bavaro
Mark Bavaro was an iconic figure for the New York Giants during the 1990s. He was a tight end known for his physicality and toughness, attributes that perfectly complemented the Giants’ style of play.
Bavaro’s ability to block and catch passes made him an invaluable asset. He was a key contributor to the team’s Super Bowl victories in 1986 and 1990. Bavaro’s blocking was instrumental in opening up running lanes for the Giants’ talented running backs.
However, it was his reliability in the passing game that set him apart. His precise route running and strong hands made him a security blanket for his quarterback.
Despite playing through injuries, Bavaro’s toughness never wavered. He was a true warrior on the field, earning the respect of teammates and opponents alike. His contributions, both as a blocker and a receiver, solidified his status as a Giants icon and one of the top tight ends of the 1990s.
6. Keith Jackson
Keith Jackson was a standout tight end during the 1990s, known for his unique ability to be a dual threat. He played for several teams during this decade, including the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins, leaving an indelible mark on the game.
What set Keith Jackson apart was his capacity to both block and catch passes effectively. He was a complete tight end who could impact the game in multiple ways. His blocking skills were vital in the run game, providing crucial support to his team’s ground attack.
In the passing game, Jackson’s skills were equally impressive. He had a knack for finding soft spots in the defense, making him a reliable target for his quarterbacks. His speed and agility for a tight end allowed him to stretch the field and create mismatches against defenders. Jackson’s versatility made him a significant asset for any team he played for during the 1990s.
While he may not have received the same level of attention as some other tight ends of his era, his consistency and ability to perform in various facets of the game solidified his reputation as one of the top tight ends of the 1990s.
7. Wesley Walls
Wesley Walls was celebrated for his reliability in the red zone during the 1990s. He played for the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints, making a significant impact as a tight end in both franchises.
Standing tall at 6’5″, Walls was a favorite target for quarterbacks near the end zone. His height and strong hands made him a dependable option in crucial scoring situations. Whenever his team was in striking distance, Walls became the go-to target, and he rarely disappointed.
Walls’ contributions were not limited to just scoring touchdowns. He was also a reliable receiver between the 20s, gaining critical first downs and helping to move the chains. His presence on the field created matchup problems for opposing defenses, particularly in the red zone.
Throughout the 1990s, Wesley Walls made a name for himself as one of the league’s premier red zone tight ends. His impact on the teams he played for was undeniable, and his reliable hands made him an invaluable asset in high-pressure situations.
8. Frank Wycheck
Frank Wycheck was a key player for the Tennessee Titans during the late 1990s. His clutch performances and ability to come through in critical moments earned him the status of a hero among Titans fans.
Wycheck was not only an effective receiver but a versatile player. He had a knack for making the right plays when it mattered most. His presence was particularly felt in the playoffs, where he consistently stepped up in tight situations.
One of his most memorable moments was the “Music City Miracle,” a trick play during the 1999 playoffs that led to a game-winning touchdown return. Wycheck’s role in that play showcased his ability to perform under pressure and make smart decisions on the field.
His contributions in the passing game were instrumental in the success of the Titans during their late-1990s playoff runs. Frank Wycheck’s ability to deliver in critical moments and his overall reliability made him a fan favorite and a hero in Tennessee.
9. Eric Green
Eric Green, a massive tight end who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins during the 1990s, was a unique talent. His size alone made him a challenging matchup for any defender.
Standing at 6’5″ and weighing over 280 pounds, Green was a physical force on the field. He used his size to his advantage, making it extremely difficult for defenders to bring him down. He often muscled his way through would-be tacklers, gaining extra yards after the catch.
Green’s size also made him an attractive target in the red zone. He could out-jump and outmuscle defenders, making him a favorite choice for quarterbacks when they needed a big play near the goal line.
Despite his imposing physical presence, Green had decent speed and agility for a player of his size. He was a formidable threat in the passing game and a key part of the offenses he played for during the 1990s.
10. Brent Jones
Brent Jones played an integral role for the San Francisco 49ers during the 1990s, contributing to the team’s success and leaving a lasting legacy.
What set Jones apart was his excellent route running and reliable hands. He had an innate ability to find openings in the defense, making him a favored target for 49ers quarterbacks, including Joe Montana and Steve Young. His precision in his routes allowed him to create separation from defenders and consistently move the chains.
Jones was not just a receiver; he was also a capable blocker, providing support for the 49ers’ running game. His versatility was a key asset for the team, allowing them to adapt to various situations on the field.
In the 1990s, Jones helped the 49ers achieve remarkable success, including a Super Bowl victory in 1995. His contributions on and off the field solidified his status as a key player in the 49ers’ dynasty, and he remains a beloved figure in the team’s history.
The 1990s were a time of innovation and excellence for NFL tight ends. These players set the stage for the evolution of the position, and their impact is still felt in today’s game. Each of these top 10 tight ends from the 1990s left an significant mark on the sport.