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How NY Jets history is altered by pre-1982 sack-total reveal

Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko's NY Jets legacies have been enhanced by pre-1982 sack totals.
(Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images)

NY Jets history looks a little bit different now that pre-1982 sack totals have been released to the public.

On Monday, July 12, sports statistics provider Sports Reference announced that it had released NFL sack totals spanning from 1960 to 1981, filling a gap in NFL history. Previously, sack totals were only available dating back to the 1982 season.

This reveal has made a profound impact on the history of the New York Jets. Here are just a few ways the record books have been altered.

Single-season sack records

First, let’s take a look at how the Jets’ single-season sack leaderboard looked prior to the introduction of pre-1982 statistics. These are the best single-season sack performances in Jets history from 1982 onward:

  1. Mark Gastineau, 22.0 (1984)
  2. Mark Gastineau, 19.0 (1983)
  3. Mark Gastineau, 13.5 (1985)
  4. John Abraham, 13.0 (2001)
  5. Dennis Byrd, 13.0 (1990)
  6. Shaun Ellis, 12.5 (2003)
  7. Muhammad Wilkerson, 12.0 (2015)
  8. Shaun Ellis, 11.0 (2004)
  9. John Abraham, 10.5 (2005)
  10. Muhammad Wilkerson, 10.5 (2013)

If we add in the newly-released sack totals from seasons prior to 1982, the list looks like this:

  1. Mark Gastineau, 22.0 (1984)
  2. Joe Klecko, 20.5 (1981)
  3. Mark Gastineau, 20.0 (1981)
  4. Mark Gastineau, 19.0 (1983)
  5. Verlon Biggs, 15.0 (1967)
  6. Gerry Philbin, 14.0 (1968)
  7. Mark Gastineau, 13.5 (1985)
  8. John Abraham, 13.0 (2001)
  9. Dennis Byrd, 13.0 (1990)
  10. Verlon Biggs, 12.5 (1966)
  11. John Elliott, 12.5 (1970)
  12. Shaun Ellis, 12.5 (2003)

Joe Klecko, one of the most revered defenders in Jets history, previously did not have an elite season of sack production to his name. He now boasts a 20.5-sack outburst in 1981. The same year, Mark Gastineau had a 20.0-sack campaign. Klecko and Gastineau represent the only duo of teammates to each hit the 20.0-sack mark in the same season.

Three highly underrated members of the 1968 Super Bowl championship squad now have historic seasons to their name: Verlon Biggs, John Elliott, and Gerry Philbin.

Career sack leaderboard

Here is how the Jets’ all-time sack list looked prior to the introduction of pre-1982 totals:

  1. Mark Gastineau, 74.0
  2. Shaun Ellis, 72.5
  3. John Abraham, 53.5
  4. Mo Lewis, 52.5
  5. Calvin Pace, 46.0
  6. Muhammad Wilkerson, 44.5
  7. Marvin Washington, 37.5
  8. David Harris, 35.0
  9. Jeff Lageman, 34.5
  10. Bryan Thomas, 33.5

Here is the new pecking order:

  1. Mark Gastineau, 107.5
  2. Joe Klecko, 78.0
  3. Shaun Ellis, 72.5
  4. Gerry Philbin, 65.0
  5. Verlon Biggs, 58.5
  6. John Abraham, 53.5
  7. Mo Lewis, 52.5
  8. Calvin Pace, 46.0
  9. Muhammad Wilkerson, 44.5
  10. Marty Lyons, 43.0

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

No offense to the gritty Calvin Pace, but things just didn’t look right with him as a top-five sacker in Jets history.

The ship has been righted.

Klecko previously only had 24.0 sacks to his name, ranking 13th in franchise history. He now has 78.0 sacks, slotting him in fittingly as the team’s second-leading sacker behind Gastineau. Klecko recorded 54.0 sacks over five seasons (1977-81) prior to 1982.

Biggs and Philbin – both multi-time Pro Bowlers and members of the 1968 Pro Bowl team – are now part of the top-10.

Marty Lyons also joins the top-10 thanks to the addition of 14.0 sacks compiled from 1979-81.

Biggest beneficiaries

Verlon Biggs

The late Verlon Biggs had often been overlooked as one of the Jets’ all-time greats. He can now get the recognition he deserves.

With 58.5 sacks over six seasons with the Jets from 1965-70, Biggs ranks fifth on the team’s all-time list. His 15.0-sack performance in 1967 ranks fifth-best in franchise history and stood as the team’s best mark until Klecko and Gastineau’s explosion in 1981.

From 1966-69, Biggs strung together four straight seasons with double-digit sacks. It ties him with Gerry Philbin (who did it over the same stretch) for the longest such streak in Jets history.

Biggs was a crucial part of the Jets’ 1968 Super Bowl run, ranking second on the team with 10.5 sacks. He helped power them to the big game with a sack in the 27-23 AFL Championship win over the Raiders.

While Biggs’ lack of longevity hurts him a bit on the all-time sack list, he remains one of the most efficient sack artists the team has ever had. These are the Jets’ all-time leaders in sacks per game (minimum 50 games) by a wide margin over the rest of the field:

  1. Mark Gastineau, 0.785
  2. John Abraham, 0.733
  3. Verlon Biggs, 0.731

Biggs’ per-game sack production would put him on pace to post 100 sacks over the 137 games that Gastineau played with the Jets, just 7.5 sacks short of Gastineau’s total. He truly is one of the most underrated players in franchise history, and he can finally be recognized as such.

Gerry Philbin

Philbin and Biggs formed a terrifying duo in the late 1960s. As previously mentioned, Philbin posted double-digit sacks in four straight seasons from 1966-69, doing so at the same time as Biggs to set a still-standing Jets record.

In 1968, Philbin was the Jets’ lone All-AFL first-team member on the defensive side (Joe Namath and George Sauer represented them on the offensive side). He led the team with 14.0 sacks (sixth-best in Jets history) in the history-altering season.

Philbin ranks fourth on the Jets’ all-time list with 65.0 sacks, compiling them across 109 games over nine seasons (1964-72).

Additionally, Philbin is arguably the best player in NFL history from the state of Rhode Island. The Pawtucket native is the only Rhode Islander to be named to his league’s first-team (All-AFL or All-Pro) multiple times (accomplishing the feat twice) and ranks first all-time among natives of the state in Approximate Value (62).

John Elliott

The late John Elliott represented yet another weapon on the Jets’ defensive front in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He had three consecutive seasons with double-digit sacks from 1968-70, compiling 32.5 sacks over that span.

However, across his other four seasons with the Jets (1967, 1971-73), Elliott managed to post just six sacks in 43 games. He possesses a unique career arc that features a quick rise to stardom followed by a steep decline to mediocrity.

Nevertheless, Elliott’s short run of success cannot be forgotten. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his double-digit campaigns and was named first-team All-AFL in 1969.

Marty Lyons

Lyons was never a star for the Jets, but he provided them with excellent longevity, playing all 11 years of his career with the Jets after being taken 14th overall in the 1979 NFL draft. He ranks third in franchise history in games played among defensive linemen, logging 147 regular-season appearances. Only Bryan Thomas (157) and Shaun Ellis (170) have played more games for the Jets on the defensive front.

Previously, Lyons was 11th on the Jets’ all-time sack list with 29.0, trailing Thomas by 4.5. The new list adds 14.0 sacks onto Lyons’ total, which were compiled over his first three seasons (1979-81).

Joe Klecko

Klecko is a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro who has received plenty of much-deserved love from Jets fans. However, the numbers never did him justice.

With the addition of 54.0 sacks compiled over his first five seasons in the league, Klecko is now properly ranked at No. 2 on the team’s all-time sack list with 78.0.

While Klecko was rightfully named a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 1981, his whopping total of 20.5 sacks from that campaign had previously been hidden until now. That total ties Klecko for the 12th-best single-season mark in league history. It is the second-best mark in Jets history behind Gastineau’s 22.0-sack rampage in 1984.

Mark Gastineau

Gastineau was already the Jets’ all-time sack leader even with his first three professional seasons omitted. Now, his legacy is even stronger.

Prior to the revelation of his 1979-81 production, Gastineau’s lead on the all-time list was slim. His total of 74.0 sacks barely edged out Shaun Ellis’ 72.5 sacks.

The new data reveals that Gastineau had 33.5 sacks left unaccounted for, pushing him up to a career total of 107.5. That puts him 29.5 sacks ahead of second-ranked Klecko and should guarantee him the throne for another decade at the very least (he’s completely safe unless Quinnen Williams or Carl Lawson can rattle off nearly 11 sacks per season over the next 10 years).

Gastineau is now tied with Pat Swilling for 37th on the NFL’s all-time sack list. He was previously 87th.

A lack of longevity compared to his all-time-great peers (only 10 years in the league with 23 missed games) is the reason that Gastineau sits fairly low on the sack list relative to his talent. However, his per-game sack production is incredible. Among the 56 players with at least 100.0 career sacks (including the new unofficial pre-1982 totals), Gastineau ranks fifth in career sacks per game:

  1. Deacon Jones (0.908)
  2. Reggie White (0.853)
  3. J.J. Watt (0.789)
  4. Von Miller (0.785)
  5. Mark Gastineau (0.785)

How is this man not in the Hall of Fame?

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