EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 26: Former player Joe Klecko (L) of the New York Jets gets his jersey retired during halftime against the New England Patriots on December 26, 2004 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Patriots defeated the Jets 23-7.
Joe Klecko, New York Jets (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Klecko has waited a long time for the knock on the door

Long-time New York Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko has waited patiently for his turn.

Klecko was once again named one of the 12 senior finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame.

Jets fans have clamored for Klecko to gain the NFL’s top honor for decades now, with little success.

In the long history of the Green and White, only a handful of players have gone into the Hall of Fame chiefly for their contributions as members of the Jets. In fact, Joe Namath, Winston Hill, Don Maynard, Curtis Martin, and Kevin Mawae are the only ones. (Darrelle Revis‘s first year of eligibility is 2023.)

For Jets fans who watched the New York Sack Exchange dominate in the 1980s, it is clear that Klecko deserves to join them.

How many other defenses that dominated enough to have their own nickname do not have a single player with a gold jacket? The Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain, Fearsome Foursome, Orange Crush, Doomsday Defense, No-Name Defense, and others all feature Hall of Famers, some of them more than one.

More recent groups such as the No-Fly Zone and the Legion of Boom will almost certainly have at least one honoree in the near future.

So why not the Sack Exchange? What has held up Klecko?

First of all, Klecko was not the most well-known of the defensive line. That honor went to Mark Gastineau, the feisty edge rusher who held the single-season record for sacks for over 15 years with his 1984 total of 22.

More importantly, the NFL began recording sacks only in 1982. Therefore, according to the official tally, Klecko has only 24 career sacks, his first five seasons in the NFL forgotten. Younger voters who did not see Klecko play will quickly write him off. Even his total of 78.0 (or 80.0 according to the Jets website) is overshadowed.

However, that discounts the fact that Klecko often played as an inside rusher, including nose tackle at times. He routinely destroyed double-teams, allowing Gastineau, Abdul Salaam, and current Jets radio commentator Marty Lyons to feast on opposing quarterbacks.

Klecko was the first NFL player to make the Pro Bowl at three different positions. He is the only player ever to be named a first-team All-Pro at two different positions without making the Hall of Fame.

Klecko’s dominance is all the more impressive when you consider that he was a sixth-round draft pick in 1977.

In recent years, the Hall has righted past wrongs by inducting the likes of Drew Pearson, Sam Mills, Harold Carmichael, the aforementioned Winston Hill, Jimbo Covert, Alex Karras, and Donnie Shell.

It’s time for them to induct Joe Klecko.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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1 year ago

Thank you for highlighting why Joe not being in the HOF is an absolute travesty. Your paragraph about Pro Bowl & All-Pro is all anyone needs to know. Read accounts of playing against him from the likes of HOFer Anthony Munoz and you will know he was a beast. Yes, Gastineau was the “glory hound” w/ the sack dance, but Joe was the backbone of that group.
My moniker on other sites is “Kleckofan” and the “73” in this username is also for Joe. I just hope he doesn’t get passed over, there are some very deserving names among the twelve.

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
1 year ago

I guess they still dont officially count sacks prior to 82 but pfr has the numbers. Klecko led the nfl with 20.5 in 1981. And i dont really understand why they werent an official stat, they were def a known counting digit, heres a Topps nfl card from 79/80 celebrating the top sack artists: https://www.ebay.com/itm/202682975999

Regardless, yea, kleckos gotta get his jacket finally