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Top Ten New York Jets: #2

Honorable Mention: Special teamers didn't make the list - so Kickers Pat Leahy and Jim Turner don't get a spot. Neither does Steve O'Neal, who made the longest punt in NFL history - 98 yards. Return men Leon Washington and Dick Christy each made 4 TDs returning kicks and punts respectively, but they don't make it either.

But most important of all, coaches were left off the list: Herm Edwards is the only coach to lead the Jets to the Playoffs 3 times. Walt Michaels, Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan each took the Jets to the AFC Championship game, but lost each one. And of course there's Weeb Ewback, the Jets all-time winningest coach who led the Jets to their first playoff appearance and Superbowl III victory over his former team. Ewbank's win cemented his place in the Hall of Fame. The same honor has not been awarded to the next Jet on the list...

The Number Two New York Jet of All-Time:

Joe Klecko

"In my 13 seasons, Joe is right there at the top of the defensive ends I had to block, up there with Fred Dean, Lee Roy Selmon and Bruce Smith. Joe was the strongest guy I ever faced. He had perfect technique - hands in tight, great leverage. ...He was such an intense, smart player, I knew I was in a battle. He was the leader, the guy who kept that unit together." - HOF Tackle Anthony Munoz.

"You can't think of his ten year period without him. I had to block Joe Greene and Merlin Olsen when I was playing and, believe me, Joe Klecko was equal to those two guys. If Joe Klecko had played one position for ten years, he'd have been considered one of the top two or three players at that position, whichever one it was. There's not another player who went to the Pro Bowl at three different positions. You take a defensive end and put him at nose tackle and he's just as good there, that's a great player." - HOF Guard Joe DeLamielleure.

HOF Center Dwight Stephenson called him one of the top 2 defensive linemen he ever faced next to Howie Long.

Three of the all-time great offensive linemen pretty much sum it up for you: Joe Klecko was one of the greatest defensive linemen of all-time - on par with legends such as Fred Dean, Selmon, Bruce Smith, Joe Green, and Merlin Olsen. He is the only defensive player in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl as 3 different positions. Not even the versatile How Long can make that claim.

In 1977 the Jets drafted a little known club boxer and semi-pro football player who had played very well at Temple University. In his first season he started 6 games at LDT and recorded 8 sacks - not bad for a rookie.

In the next 4 years he would play 4 different Defensive Line positions - LDT, RDE, and RDT before his breakout year in 1981. With Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam in the middle and Gastineau on the edge, Joe Klecko recorded over 20 sacks and led the Jets to the playoffs for the 1st time since 1981. Klecko was also named Defensive Player of the Year, the only Jet to ever accomplish that feat.

The following year Klecko ruptured his patella tendon. The year after he returned to the LDT position and made the Pro Bowl at his 2nd position. In 1985 Klecko switched to NT and made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro.

Anyone who has ever seen Klecko speak can instantly tell that he gave a great deal of his long-term health to the game of football. He was the most versatile player in Jets history, the most accomplished defensive player in team history, and is one of the few players to wear a Jets history that was ever recognized as being one of the greatest of all-time.

Why the f**k is Klecko not in the Hall of Fame? Next to Jerry Kramer and Jim Marshall, Joe Klecko's Hall of Fame snub could be the most tragic in football history.

The only reasons that come to mind is the fact that:

1. The Jets never accomplished anything under him. In his 12 year career the Jets made the playoffs only 4 times, winning 3 playoff games and getting to the AFC championship game once - in the one season in which he didn't even play.

2. The team could barely elevate their level of play based on Klecko's performance (sans Gastineau) and I believe Klecko's reputation suffered because of it.

3. Sacks weren't a statistic, so people can't pro-rate his play before 1982. Klecko's "official" career sack line is 24.0 - but if you had just his rookie year and his 1981 season that number immediately more than doubles. Also, tackles were not recorded either, so the fact that Klecko recorded over 90 tackles from a DT position is often lost on people.

Joe Klecko's #73 jersey was never reissued and was retired in 2004. He was part of the inaugural Jets Ring of Honor in 2010 and the Jets All-Time team.

Klecko will make it to the Hall of Fame someday. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but it will happen one day. And when that day comes, people will remember him as being not only one of the All-Time great Jets, or one of the All-Time great defensive linemen, but as one of the All-Time great players in NFL history.

Next: The greatest to ever wear a Jets uniform.

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