Former eight-time Pro-Bowler, two-time NFL defensive player of the year and Hall of Fame inductee Deacon Jones passed away on Monday at his home in Anaheim Hills, CA. Jones, who was a victim of his era, is never going to be found on any all-time sacks list, as the league did not start tallying sacks as an official statistic until 1982. But unofficially, Jones finished his career with 194.5 sacks over his 14-year career, which would rank him behind only Bruce Smith and Reggie White for the career sack record.
In fact, had the NFL been keeping track of sacks before 1982, former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan would no longer hold the single-season sack record. Despite playing in a 16 game season, Strahan would have still fallen 3.5 sacks short of Jones' unofficial mark of 26 in 1967, when the NFL still only played 14 games per season. Regardless, Strahan still views Jones as an innovator and a the father of the modern day defensive end.
"He was fun to watch, because he was long and lanky," Strahan said. "You have a lot of players who play the game who do what other players have done. But Deacon did things that people hadn’t done before. He made them outlaw something [his head slap move] that he did. He found another way to get better, another way to succeed. He forever changed the position. He is the founding father, in my opinion, of defensive ends.”
In today's NFL, defensive end is perhaps the lone non-skill position that receives just as much public notoriety as a running back or wide receiver. A teams' ability to pressure the quarterback often determines the outcome of any given matchup, and the Giants have excelled in this regard, in varying degrees, over the last several seasons.
Jones and Strahan were good friends from the inception of No. 92's career, and Strahan says that he may never have developed into a dominant defensive end without Jones' encouragement.
"I literally loved Deacon," Strahan said. "You often hear the term, there’s only one of somebody. But there’s truly only one Deacon Jones. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. I was a young player; he didn’t have to take me under his wing. It was just so good to have a legend believe in me as a young player, which made me better."
Deacon Jones never played for the Giants, but he certainly had a positive impact on one of the franchises most influential players.
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