The amount of sacks Pro Football Hall of Famer Deacon Jones had was the stuff of legends. The Paul Bunyan of defensive ends, Jones terrorized quarterbacks for over a decade — but the world never knew the full amount of sacks the Los Angeles Rams legend accomplished in his Hall of Fame career.
Jones — who played from 1961 to 1974 — was believed to have been the league’s all-time sack leader when he retired, but sacks weren’t an official NFL stat until 1982. Records were kept between the teams he played for (Rams, Chargers, Washington), even though there was never an official number in place. The Rams listed Jones as having 159.5 sacks in his 12 seasons with the team, although the final number remains unofficial.
Thanks to data collected by Pro Football Reference, the league has an unofficial number for the amount of sacks Jones had in his career. Jones did retire as the league’s all-time sack leader with 173.5, only to be surpassed by Reggie White (198) and Bruce Smith (200). Jones currently sits third on the all-time list, one of only three players with over 170 sacks in his career.
In this short edition of “By the Numbers,” we’ll take a look at the incredible career of Jones and where he stacks up amongst the all-time greats in single-season sack totals.
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Most 15+ sack seasons — all-timeDeacon Jones — 6Reggie White — 5J.J. Watt — 4Jack Youngblood — 4Most 20+ sack seasons — all-timeDeacon Jones — 3Mark Gastineau — 2J.J. Watt — 2Most times leading NFL in sacks in a seasonDeacon Jones — 5Reggie White — 2Michael Strahan — 2Al Baker — 2DeMarcus Ware — 2Ed Husmann — 2Jack Youngblood — 2J.J. Watt — 2Jim Katcavage — 2Mark Gastineau — 2Larry Eisenhauer — 2Kevin Greene — 2
What Jones has accomplished in his career is off the charts. There have been only 11 instances of a player finishing with at least 21.0 sacks in a season — Deacon Jones has accomplished the feat three times and no other player has done it more than once.
Jones is the only player to lead the league in sacks more than twice, and he was the season sack champion five times (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969). White and Gastineau are the only two players to join Jones in repeating as sack champions — and Jones is the only player in league history to lead the league in sacks for three consecutive seasons (1967-1969).
During Jones’ prime from 1964 to 1969, he tallied 115.5 sacks in six seasons — only 29 other players have more than 115.5 sacks in their career. Jones had six consecutive seasons of 15.0-plus sacks, which remains the most in NFL history.
White and Smith amassed more sacks than Jones, but how do two of the greatest pass rushers match up with Jones after 14 seasons? White had 192.5 sacks while Jones had 173.5 and Smith finished with 164.0. Jones averaged 0.908 sacks per game while White averaged 0.891 — and keep in mind Jones played 14-game seasons in his career compared to the 16-game campaigns White endured.
The debate will remain who is the all-time greatest pass rusher, but Jones finally has the numbers to state his case — even if they are unofficial.