Happy Super Bowl Sunday:
1. Time for Klecko: Now that the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 is set, let's turn our attention to 2016 and start by paraphrasing a familiar chorus from the 1980s: Joe must go … to Canton.
We're talking about Joe Klecko, of course, not former New York Jets coach Joe Walton, often the object of the fans' scorn. Klecko is the best defensive player in Jets history and deserves a place in the Hall of Fame. He was one of the NFL's most dominant defensive linemen in the Eighties, yet he curiously hasn't received serious consideration.
Now is his time.
Because he's at least 25 years removed from his final season (1988), Klecko is eligible as a senior candidate. In fact, 2015 was his first year of senior eligibility, but the committee nominated former Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff in his 32nd year of eligibility. On Saturday night, he was voted into the Hall.
Klecko's chances will be better next year because, due to a recent change in the by-laws, the committee will be allowed two senior nominees for 2016.
He's had a lot of support over the years from his peers, including Hall-of-Fame offensive linemen Anthony Munoz, Dwight Stephenson and Joe DeLamielleure -- all of whom have given testimonials. DeLamielleure once said Klecko was every bit as good as Mean Joe Greene and Merlin Olsen, both of whom have busts in Canton. Still, Klecko hasn't been able to make headway in the often-political process.
“It's always a hope,” Klecko said by phone Saturday. “Being elected to the Hall of Fame would be such a special thing -- outrageous. People talk about it, which flatters me. I don't have overwhelming credentials and I never played in a Super Bowl, and that seems to be a big catalyst."
Officially, Klecko has only 24 career sacks, but the sack didn't become an official statistic until 1982. In '81, he recorded a league-high 20.5 sacks and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year. He was named twice to the All-Pro team. He might have made it a couple of more times, but injuries robbed him of significant time in 1982 and 1986.
Most impressively, he made four Pro Bowls at three different positions -- defensive end, tackle and nose tackle. He was so versatile that, even during his nose-tackle days, he played defensive end on passing downs. That takes a special player. Truth be told, he revolutionized nose tackle, playing in the "cocked" position, the brainchild of the late defensive guru Bud Carson.
Klecko said he's not frustrated, adding, "I don't sit around calibrating what will do and what won't do" to get in the Hall. Nevertheless, he belongs. Let's hope the committee recognizes it.
2. Another look at 2016: Two former greats with Jets connections -- Brett Favre and Alan Faneca -- will be Hall-of-Fame eligible for the first time. Favre, who played for the Jets in 2008, is a first-ballot lock. Faneca, a member of the Jets in 2008 and 2009, will be another strong candidate, if not a first-ballot selection. He made nine Pro Bowls, the first seven with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yep, the Jets have a tendency to get the great ones when they're near the end (see Art Monk and Ronnie Lott). Oh, by the way, LaDainian Tomlinson will be eligible in 2017.
3. Percy ha$ a rooting intere$t: Percy Harvin has many reasons to root for his old team in the Super Bowl. Aside from having friends on the Seattle Seahawks, he has money riding on the outcome. Because he played five games this season for the Seahawks, who traded him to the Jets in October, he's entitled to a half-share of postseason earnings. He'll walk away with a cool $82,500 if the Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl champions, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. If they lose, he still gets $58,500, the half-share total that includes the Super Bowl loser's share and winnings from the previous rounds. In case you're wondering, the money is paid by the league, not the team. The Seahawks did him a favor by trading him to the AFC. By rule, he wouldn't have been eligible for the postseason dough if he had remained in Seattle's conference.
4. Quarterback option: One of the quarterbacks who could be on the Jets' radar is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Glennon, who might be expendable if the Bucs take Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick. They already have Josh McCown, who could be a hold-the-fort starter/mentor to a rookie. Playing for a bad team, Glennon posted respectable numbers in his first two seasons (29 touchdowns, 15 interceptions). Maybe he can be had for a late-round draft pick. The Jets almost certainly will bring in competition for Geno Smith.
5. A non-endorsement: Publicly, new coach Todd Bowles has remained non-committal on Smith. Privately, he apparently is taking the same approach. On Saturday, Smith told reporters that Bowles didn't share his plans for the quarterback position during a recent phone conversation -- and Smith is okay with that. Why is this even an issue? He hasn't done enough to be handed the starting job, and the depth chart will look a lot different in a few months. Bowles has no choice but to let it play out.
6. The Revenge of Guge: Remember Dave DeGuglielmo? He was the Jets' offensive line coach in 2012; now he coaches the Patriots' line. DeGuglielmo, known as "Guge," got a bad rap in New York because of a contentious relationship with the media and because he publicly questioned the management-driven decision to platoon Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse at left guard. Hey, at least he had the guts to speak his mind. Statistically, the Jets' line rated above average, but he still got fired.
Obviously, Bill Belichick saw something in him. The Patriots called him last January from the tarmac in Denver, where they had just lost the AFC title game. They wanted him to fly to Foxborough the next day for a second interview. These guys don't mess around. The Patriots' line struggled early in the year, but it has settled down and now Guge is one win from a Super Bowl ring. Life after the Jets is good.
7. Hot air: I'm not suggesting the Patriots are serial ball deflaters, but please allow me to throw out some knowledge on the subject of ball security. Since 2007, they've fumbled 23 rush attempts, the fewest in the NFL over that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Patriots were the only team during the 2014 regular season to not fumble a rush attempt. Wait, there's more: They were only the third team since the 1970 merger to go an entire season without losing a fumble at home, per Elias. Just saying.
8. The fiery side of Belichick: Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston wrote a terrific piece of Belichick's under-rated motivational skills, how he can turn adversity (i.e. DeflateGate) into a rallying point. It got me thinking about a Belichick anecdote from Super Bowl XXV, when the New York Giants upset the Buffalo Bills. In 2001, I did a 10-year anniversary story on the game, including a story that Belichick -- the team's defensive coordinator -- shared in a phone interview. I've interviewed him several times over the last 18 years, but this was the most animated he'd ever been. This passage is from the New York Daily News:
Three days before the Super Bowl, a Tampa newspaper ran a photo of a few Buffalo players at a local jewelry store. They were getting measured for Super Bowl rings. Privately, the Giants delighted in the Bills' arrogance. "That was the defining moment of the week," said Belichick, telling the story with the enthusiasm of a kid. "When we saw that picture, we got that baby and slapped it up on the wall in the meeting room. We just said to ourselves, 'We got 'em now. We're going to get 'em.'"
10. Prediction: Seahawks 27, Patriots 23. Let's hope we can focus the entire day to what happens on the field -- for a change.