Joe Klecko, NY Jets, Hall of Fame
Joe Klecko, New York Jets, Getty Images

Klecko was a member of the famed “New York Sack Exchange”

Joe Klecko took down plenty of worthy adversaries during a storied NFL career with the New York Jets. One more formidable than the rest lingered: doubt from Pro Football Hall of Fame voters.

Klecko, however, appears to have entered Canton’s backfield and is closing in.

The famed metropolitan pass rusher took his biggest step toward a Canton bust on Tuesday, as the Hall’s Seniors Committee named Klecko as one of three players (alongside Chuck Howley and Ken Riley) chosen to appear on the formal ballot in January. Klecko’s next step is to garner 80 percent of votes from the full committee but, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, such a process is seen as a “formality.”

Jets fans have long advocated for Klecko’s enshrinement since his 12-year career with the Jets ended in 1987. Uniting with teammate Abdul Salaam and newcomers Mark Gastineau and Marty Lyons, Klecko was a versatile component on the “New York Sack Exchange”, the Jets’ formidable pass rushing group that defined the team’s 1980s resurgence. Behind Klecko’s career-best season in 1981 (20.5 sacks), the Jets won 10 games and made their first playoff appearance in a dozen seasons. Klecko made a name for himself with prowess on both the edge and the interior, moving over to tackle after an injury limited to two regular season games during the 1982 campaign.

The Jets went 51-37-1 between 1981 and 1986, which included an appearance in the AFC title game in the second year of that span (Klecko returned for the playoff run, notably recovering a fumble in the Divisional round win over the Los Angeles Raiders). Knee issues forced Klecko into retirement after he spent the 1988 season with the Indianapolis Colts, but his legacy has left a sizable impact on Jets history: his 78 sacks in a Jet uniform still rank second in franchise history (behind only Gastineau) and he is one of three Jets to have their number officially retired by the team (alongside Don Maynard and Joe Namath). Klecko was also part of the Jets’ inaugural Ring of Honor class upon MetLife Stadium’s opening in 2010.

Lyons advocated for Klecko’s enshrinement in recent comments to Newsday. 

“He should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago. “The Hall of Fame … (needs) to listen, not just to the voters but they need to listen to members who are in the Hall of Fame. Like Anthony Munoz and Dwight Stephenson and Joe DeLamielleure,” Lyons told Denis Gorman, referencing some of the formidable blockers that Klecko faced on a regular basis. “These guys played against Joe for years. If they’re saying Joe was one of the best and they’re in the Hall of Fame, what’s that say about Joe?”

“He was a guy who made every player that lined up with him a better player,” Lyons continued. “It’s not Joe’s fault we didn’t go to a Super Bowl. It’s not Joe’s fault we didn’t win our division all the time. If we all played with the intensity that Joe did, then it would have made us a better team.”

The modern Jets will continue their preseason endeavors on Monday night in East Rutherford when they battle the Atlanta Falcons (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email:
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1 year ago

I wore #73 in high school and my moniker on many sites is “kleckofan”
Well deserved.
A travesty that it’s taken this long.

1 year ago

NO kidding! This was my favorite childhood Jet and he should have been in there long ago. He was a true game wrecker and I don’t think I’m overstating by saying he was the Aaron Donald of his time. He could line up anywhere, play the run and the pass, and played with the passion all greats have. So happy about this!!

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
1 year ago

!!!!! ’bout time!!!!