DT / NT / DE
Class of 2023
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
In the 1980s, few defensive lines caused as much havoc for opposing teams in the National Football League as the “New York Sack Exchange” of the New York Jets. Joe Klecko allowed the unit to show a three-man or four-man front, demonstrating the strength, quickness and versatility to play end, tackle and nose during a 12-year career in the NFL.
Klecko is the only player in NFL history selected to the Pro Bowl at all three positions across the defensive line.
Chosen in the sixth round of the 1977 NFL Draft after a dominant collegiate career at Temple University, Klecko made an immediate impact in the pros. He recorded eight sacks (according to the Jets and Pro Football Reference, as the stat was unofficial until 1982) – a team record for a rookie.
When his time with the Jets ended 10 years later, Klecko also held team records for most games played on the defensive line (140) and most consecutive games with a full sack (10, in 1977-78.)
Klecko’s best season statistically came in 1981. He totaled a league-high 20.5 sacks as the Sack Exchange dropped opposing quarterbacks 66 times. Klecko won the Defensive Player of the Year award from UPI and finished as runner-up to future Pro Football Hall of Famer LAWRENCE TAYLOR for that award from the Associated Press. The Jets’ defense ranked fifth in the NFL and helped the team win seven of its last eight games – holding each of those opponents to 15 points or fewer – to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1969.
Klecko ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee in the second game of the 1982 season, but he returned for the playoffs, helping the Jets to a pair of victories before the team fell to the Dolphins 14-0 in the AFC Championship Game.
After 11 seasons with the Jets, Klecko played one year with the Indianapolis Colts. He retired with 78 career sacks in 155 games.
In 2004, Klecko became the third player in Jets franchise history to see his number (73) retired, following Pro Football Hall of Famers JOE NAMATH and DON MAYNARD. In 2010, he was chosen as an inaugural member of the Jets Ring of Honor.
|1977||New York Jets||13||N/A|
|1978||New York Jets||16||N/A|
|1979||New York Jets||16||N/A|
|1980||New York Jets||15||N/A|
|1981||New York Jets||16||N/A|
|1982||New York Jets||2||2.0|
|1983||New York Jets||16||6.5|
|1984||New York Jets||12||3.0|
|1985||New York Jets||16||7.5|
|1986||New York Jets||11||4.0|
|1987||New York Jets||7||1.0|
|* Sacks were an unofficial NFL statistic until 1982|
1982 AFC – Miami Dolphins 14, New York Jets 0
- Klecko did not start but played and recorded two solo tackles.
All-Pro: 1981 – DE (AP, PFWA, NEA, SN, PW) • 1985 – DT (AP, PFWA, NEA)
All-Pro Second Team: 1983 – DT (AP)
All-AFC: 1981 – DE (UPI, PW) • 1983 – DT (PW) • 1985 – DT (UPI)
All-AFC Second Team: 1978 – DE (UPI) • 1979 – DT (UPI) • 1986 – DT(UPI)
(DE = honors earned as defensive end; DT = honors earned as defensive tackle)
(4) – 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986
New York Jets records held by Klecko
(Records through the 1987 season, Klecko's final season with New York)
- [1st] Most Games Played by Defensive Lineman – 140 (1977-1987)
- [1st] Most Consecutive Games with Full Sack – 10 (1977-1978)
- [1st] Most Sacks by a Rookie – 8 (1977)
- [2nd] Most Sacks, Career – 77.5 (1977-1987)
- [2nd] Most Sacks, Season – 20.5 (1981)
LEAGUE/TEAM STATISTICAL TITLES
Team statistical championships
Sack titles: 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1986
YEAR-BY-YEAR TEAM RECORDS
|1977||New York Jets||3||11||0||(5th)|
|1978||New York Jets||8||8||0||(3rd)|
|1979||New York Jets||8||8||0||(3rd)|
|1980||New York Jets||4||12||0||(5th)|
|1981||New York Jets||10||5||1||(2nd)|
|1982||New York Jets||6||3||0||(6th)*|
|1983||New York Jets||7||9||0||(5th)|
|1984||New York Jets||7||9||0||(3rd)|
|1985||New York Jets||11||5||0||(2nd)|
|1986||New York Jets||10||6||0||(2nd)|
|1987||New York Jets||6||9||0||(5th)|
* AFC regulard season finish in strike-shortened season. Qualified for postseason in bold.
Full name: Joseph Edward Klecko
Birthdate: October 15, 1953
Birthplace: Chester, Pennsylvania
High school: St. James (Chester, Pennsylvania)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jan. 17, 2023
Other members of the Class of 2023: Rondé Barber, Don Coryell, Chuck Howley, Darrelle Revis, Ken Riley, Joe Thomas, Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware.
Pro career: 12 seasons, 155 games.
Drafted: Sixth round (144th overall) in 1977 by New York Jets
Uniform number: 73