Once a upon a time the Jets were good enough to win a SuperBowl. Over the years they have yet to get back to the Super Bowl but along the way they had moments that their fans remember fondly like the the New York Sack Exchange.
The New York Sack Exchange was the nickname given to the front four defensive line of the American football team New York Jets of the National Football League during the early 1980s. The line consisted of Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam
In 1981, during a game at Shea Stadium, a fan held up a bedsheet on which he had scrawled “New York Sack Exchange.” Jets public relations director Frank Ramos used the nickname in a press release and it was soon picked up by the media.
All four members of the Sack Exchange were drafted by the Jets in the 1970s. Salaam, a defensive tackle, was drafted in the 7th round (188th overall) by the Jets in 1976. Klecko, a defensive end, was a 6th round pick (144th overall) in 1977. Lyons, a defensive tackle, was a first round pick (14th overall) in 1979, while Gastineau, a defensive end, was selected with the Jets’ second round selection in that draft (41st overall).
In November 1981, Gastineau, Klecko, Salaam and Lyons were invited to ring the ceremonial opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, which served as the inspiration for their nickname. Gastineau and Klecko competed to see which defensive end could record the most sacks. In 1981, the Jets led the league with 66 sacks. The Jets reached the 1982 AFC Championship Game.
Salaam was traded after the 1983 season. However, Gastineau, Klecko, and Lyons continued to have success for several years, with Gastineau and Klecko making two more Pro Bowls apiece. Lyons, the last active member of the Sack Exchange, retired after the 1990 season.
Members of the New York Sack Exchange have earned individual honors. The Jets retired Klecko’s #73 during a halftime ceremony on December 26, 2004. Lyons was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Klecko and Joe Fields wrote a book on Klecko’s career, including details on his personal relationship with Gastineau. A book that told the story of this era of the Jets, titled Sack Exchange: The Definitive Oral History of the 1980s New York Jets, by author Greg Prato, was released in September 2011 via ECW Press.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes the New York Jets Sack Exchange.