Aug 9, 2015; Canton, OH, USA; General view of the Pro Football Hall of Fame logo. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
For the New York Jets, the legend of Joe Klecko still resonates to this very day of the impact he not only had in the organization but across the football world.
When it comes to remembering the icons of the New York Jets, many names come to mind. Joe Namath, Curtis Martin, Wayne Chrebet and even Mark Gastineau all come to mind right off the bat. But of course, there is one particular defensive legend that truly made his mark across the Jets in ways we can only remember as flat out dominating.
Of course I’m talking about the legendary defensive lineman, Joe Klecko. As one of the members of the infamous “New York Sack Exchange”, Klecko was everything you could ask for when it came to versatility, aggression and just flat out terrorizing the opposition.
For years now, Klecko has been nominated into the Pro Football Hall of Fame but unfortunately, hasn’t been enshrined for reasons that are truly unknown in the grand scheme of things. It’s a shame really since football fans who don’t even root for the Jets all remember the impact he had on defense.
Without further ado, here are the top five reasons why Klecko should be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame once and for all.
Next: 5. Helping end a massive playoff drought
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
5. Helping end a massive playoff drought
When Klecko was selected by the Jets back in the 1977 NFL Draft, many knew there was something special about of the talented defensive lineman from Temple. In college Klecko was known as a human tackling machine that was tough as nails against anyone holding the football.
It wasn’t until a few years later after he got acclimated to life in the NFL that he really took off. Of course once he had the talented supporting cast around him in Marty Lyons, Abdul Salaam and Gastineau, it time to make the Jets into a serious contender.
Once the talented quartet realized their true potential, they were adamant on ending the current playoff drought that plagued the Jets during the time. It wasn’t until 1981 that all four defenders, led by Klecko, ended the drought and launched the Jets into the NFL Playoffs that season.
He ended the season with an amazing 20.5 sacks and proved that he was the key catalyst in making the Jets’ defense one to reckon with. He did his part to end that playoff drought that lasted almost two decades.
Next: 4. An incredible bounce back from injury
4. An incredible bounce back from injury
After an incredible run a season before, in 1982 Klecko unfortunately suffered a severe knee injury that ended his year short as he missed almost the entire season. It was a ruptured tendon injury that many thought would mean he would never be the same again.
Klecko, always known for his determination and never giving up no matter what the odds were, rehabbed extensively to make sure he was there for his team. That year, the Jets made the playoffs yet again and much to the surprise of many, Klecko made sure to have his presence felt as the team took care of business.
With big wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, the Jets were just a game away from making their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Unfortunately they lost to their AFC East rival Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game but Klecko did the unthinkable and not only bounced back from severe injury but proved that no injury would keep him down forever.
Klecko embodies that keen defensive mentality that nothing would stop him from playing the game he loves. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is all about players that share similar feelings about professional football as Klecko performed at elite levels throughout his entire tenure with the Jets.
Next: 3. Bringing the buzz back to Gang Green
Feb 12, 2015; New York, NY, USA; A general view of Times Square and a heart sculpture. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
3. Bringing the buzz back to Gang Green
If you don’t live in the beautiful city of New York and didn’t know, the New York Giants reign supreme as the most popular team. You can thank their four Super Bowl championships and two most recent ones in the past decade for them being the main team New Yorkers root for.
Of course the Jets have their faithful fans but before the rise of Klecko, nobody really cared about the team. They were at many times a disappointing franchise unable to field a competitive team worthy of even making the playoffs.
Klecko was that star in the making that not only made a huge impact on the football field but brought the buzz back to the Jets. At 6’3 and 263 pounds, he was exactly what the Jets needed to have fans get excited for what he brought to the table week in, week out.
As the saying goes, defense wins championships and even though Klecko never won a Super Bowl ring with the Jets, every season he was with the franchise there was hope that they could go the distance.
Next: 2. Stats don't tell everything
Aug 9, 2015; Canton, OH, USA; General aerial view of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2. Stats don’t tell everything
One of the big reasons why the committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame don’t truly recognize the greatness that was Klecko during his NFL career is most likely due to his overall stats. At the time, sacks were not officially recognized by the NFL and thus not counted. His best stats he produced with the Jets aren’t even officially tallied in his record.
If you ask any of the players he played with or even against, they all speak highly of the impact he had on defense. Many claim he was one of the best interior defensive lineman to ever play the game as many of his peers are shocked he hasn’t been enshrined yet.
Klecko had incredible strength, speed and an ability to be a disruptive defensive lineman that was one of the very few that excelled in both pass rush and run stopping situations. He brought intensity yet an incredibly high football IQ in being able to consistently outsmart his opponents.
Stats don’t tell everything as he was the leader his teammates could count on to keep everyone in check and rally the troops towards coming through in the clutch. He might not have the rings to back it up but he acted like a champion in every play he was a part of.
Next: 1. Making professional football history
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
1. Making professional football history
There is one particular piece of professional football history that only two athletes to ever play the game can share. One is Frank Gifford of the Giants and the other is Klecko.
Both athletes are the only ones in history to be Pro Bowl selections at three different positions. Klecko was so talented, he was efficient as either a defensive end, defensive tackle or even as a nose tackle.
It’s incredibly hard to be a master of your niche at any single one of the aforementioned positions but Klecko was elite in every one of them. He excelled in every assignment given to him and executed with such ease and precision he made it look easy.
Overall, it’s a shame really that the Pro Football Hall of Fame have yet to enshrine him even though he’s gotten close in votes over the years. While it’s great the Jets honored Klecko by retiring his number over a decade ago, it’s only a matter of time before he earns his golden jacket. Not only does he deserve it but he absolutely should be enshrined to have his career, legacy and impact recognized forever to the football world.