One of the great wrongs in the NFL is finally being corrected. Joe Klecko, one of the leaders of the New York Jets in the 1980’s has been named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023.
For Klecko, it’s been a long time coming. As a versatile defensive lineman, Klecko tallied a career, and league-high 20.5 sacks in 1981 and was second in the defensive player of the year voting only to Lawrence Taylor.
Over his career, Klecko was a three-time All-Pro and four-time pro-bowler. Klecko is currently only 13th all-time on the Jets sack record because sacks were not a recorded stat until 1982.
Because of the recent updates to the sack statistic, Klecko is actually second all-time in Jets history with 78 total sacks only behind Mark Gastineau
As a member of the famed “New York Sack Exchange” the Jets made the playoffs four times under their top pass rushers. Klecko, Gastineau, and Marty Lyons helped New York lead the league in sacks in 1981 with 66, and reach the AFC Championship Game in 1982.
While a final vote is expected later in the year, Klecko must receive 80% of votes from the full committee in January which is reportedly considered a formality.
Klecko is close to being enshrined in his rightful place in Canton, Ohio.
Other Finalists joining Klecko
Chuck Howley a key member in Dallas’ “Doomsday Defense” of the early ’70s, Howley is the only person named Most Valuable Player of a Super Bowl from the losing team, winning the award following the Cowboys’ 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V. He also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in Super Bowl VI as the Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24-3. In his 15-season career, Howley intercepted 25 passes and recovered 18 fumbles in 180 regular-season games. He was named first-team All-Pro five times and selected to six Pro Bowls.
Ken Riley is still fifth on the all-time interceptions list as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals and helped Cincinnati get to the Super Bowl in 1981. Riley was named a first-team All-Pro once and recorded at least one interception in every year he played. Riley passed away at the age of 72 in 2020.
Other Finalists for the Selection Committee were Sterling Sharpe, Ken Anderson, and Everson Walls.
For Riley and Howley, it’s a long time coming. For Klecko, the latest announcement means that the long wait has paid off, and one of the all-time greatest Jets is months away from finally getting his gold jacket.
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