Mark Gastineau's NY Jets legacy grows with the introduction of pre-1982 NFL sack totals.
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The history books of the NFL and the New York Jets have been rewritten, as sack totals from seasons prior to 1982 have finally been released.

Michael Nania

Since their introduction as an official statistic in 1982, sacks have long been considered the primary barometer for evaluating pass rushers. They have helped us paint the picture of NFL history (and New York Jets history), making it easier to identify the most dominant rushers the league has ever seen.

There has always been one major problem with the sack statistic regarding its place in NFL lore. With no sack totals available prior to the 1982 season, a huge chunk of the best defensive players in league history have been left with no numbers to support their greatness.

That is, until now.

On Monday, sports statistics outlet Sports Reference announced that it had unveiled sack totals for all players going back to the 1960 season.

Mike Lynch of Sports Reference notes, “In the case of sacks, thanks to decades of research by John Turney and Nick Webster, we have a very thorough accounting of the statistic all the way back to 1960. Given that accounting for these ‘unofficial’ statistics allows us to paint a richer picture of the history of the game, we think it is a no-brainer to present them on Pro Football Reference, allowing fans to gain a deeper appreciation of some of football’s biggest stars in the 1960s and 1970s.”

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This is the culmination of many, many years of work from Turney and Webster, who are members of the Pro Football Researchers Association. Their findings stem from various sources and they continue to unearth new data to this day.

“Turney and Webster, stalwart members of the Pro Football Researchers Association, have been compiling these numbers for nearly 30 years,”  Lynch states. “The important things to know are that these numbers are based upon review of official play-by-plays, watching game film, photographs and coaches’ stats. The work continues to this day as new information is discovered, particularly for numbers from the early 1960s.”

Michael Strahan’s 22.5-sack season for the New York Giants was previously the single-season NFL record. Strahan has now been unofficially usurped by Al Baker, who ripped off 23 sacks for the Detroit Lions in 1978.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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2 years ago

It is amazing that there are even long time Jets fans who disparage Mark Gastineau, one the all time Jets greats! Both Gastineau and his Sack Exchange linemate, Joe Klecko should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! There is one thing the Jets organization can do right now. That thing is to officially retire Gastineau’s #99. Yes Mark is in the Ring of Honor, but the ultimate tribute is the retirement of a player’s jersey number. Mark Gastineau deserves that tribute!
These revised sack totals also give Super Bowl III defensive linemen Vernon Biggs and Gerry Philbin their due. Philbin was my favorite Jets defensive player as a kid. Philbin and Biggs get over looked way too much.