When is a Sack not a Sack?

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

Deacon Jones invented the football term “sack” but, in the NFL’s eyes, he never collected one.

Jones revolutionized defensive line play with his fierce pass rush from the left side for the Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s. With all the Hall of Fame quarterbacks that decade -- Unitas, Starr, Layne, Tittle, Van Brocklin, Jurgensen and Tarkenton -- harassing the quarterback became a defensive premium.

No one did it better than Jones, who used a violent head slap to gain an edge on offensive tackles blocking him. His ability to collapse the pocket and crush quarterbacks sent him to seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 1964-70. He explained that tackling a quarterback was like bagging him and putting him in a sack.

But the NFL did not recognize his term “sack” -- or the act of tackling the quarterback as a statistic -- until 1982. Jones retired after 14 seasons in 1974 so, if you examine the NFL’s all-time sack list, the Deacon is no where to be found.

Bruce Smith sits atop the all-time list with 200 sacks, followed by Reggie White with 198, Kevin Greene with 160, Chris Doleman 150.5 and Michael Strahan 141 1/2. In the eyes of the NFL, the 173 ½ sacks that Jones amassed during his Hall of Fame career never happened.

Tell that to the quarterbacks of the 1960s.

The NFL recognizes Strahan as the all-time single-season sack leader with 22 ½. But that’s news to the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. The Cowboys credit Harvey Martin with a 23-sack season in 1977 and the Lions list Al “Bubba” Baker with a 23-sack season in 1978.

The NFL record book says Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets was the first defensive player to reach the 20-sack plateau with 22 in 1984.

But in addition to Baker and Martin, the record book discounts the 22-sack seasons of Jones in 1964 and 1968, a 22-sack season of Coy Bacon of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1976 and another 21-sack season by Jones in 1967. All are listed in the individual club record books.

The NFL is the wealthiest league in the world with billions of dollars in revenue. It’s time the league spent a little pocket change to update its record book.

Get the sack stats researched and updated to give the players who taught the NFL the art of the pass rush the credit they deserve as defensive pioneers. Just because the NFL kept its eyes closed until 1982 didn’t mean all those sacks didn’t happen.

Follow Rick Gosselin on Twitter at @RickGosselinDMN


Courtesy of St. Louis Rams