The reports are that Joe Jacoby was one of the first or second players to miss the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the balloting whose results were announced at the NFL awards ceremony last Saturday night before the Super Bowl. The fact the former Washington Redskins’ offensive tackle got this close on his first time as a finalist speaks well for his future chances. But the fact it took him this long to be a finalist to begin with, and that he’s still not in Canton is foolish.
Jacoby was a cornerstone of The Hogs offensive line that anchored the Redskins during the Joe Gibbs dynasty run of 1981-92 when the franchise won three Super Bowls and made a fourth. He played his final season in 1993 and it took him this long to even qualify as a finalist?
He made the Pro Bowl in four consecutive years from 1983-86, making 1st-team All-NFL in two of those years. Since those who were only Pro Bowl appearances, I suppose I can at least where skeptics come from. But that does not take into consideration the following…
*Jacoby continued to play at an extremely high level all the way through the Redskins’ 1991 Super Bowl win and could have made more Pro Bowls (the fact he didn’t is leaving me in a mood to check out who the offensive lineman that did make it were. We might need to challenge some history here). But either way, it’s not like he fell into mediocrity in 1986. His role as offensive line cornerstone continued for two more Super Bowl wins after his final Pro Bowl appearance.
*No other franchise has had a dynasty run that was more defined by its offensive line. There have been other great ones to be sure, but with the Redskins, The Hogs were the constant. Gibbs won his three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks—Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. Four really, given that Jay Schroeder was the starter for virtually all of 1987 until being benched for Williams in the playoffs.
Every other team that won multiple Super Bowls with a more or less specific cast of players did so around a single quarterback. Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, John Elway, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger. The 49ers transitioned from Montana to Steve Young and won another one, but they also transitioned a lot of other pieces.
The only coach that came close to replicating Gibbs’ success with multiple quarterbacks was Bill Parcells with the Giants. He won the Super Bowl with Phil Simms in 1986 and Jeff Hostetler in 1990—but there is a big asterisk there in that Simms quarterbacked the 1990 team most of the way before getting hurt. I think of Simms as a two-time Super Bowl winner. And even if we do give Parcells for credit for two, that’s still less than three if my math is accurate.
The Hogs were the reason. Gibbs moved his quarterbacks and his running backs in and out behind the offensive front. And even with the Hogs there was transition. R.C. Thielman was there for the first Super Bowl win in 1982, but not for the last. Jim Lachey was the best offensive tackle in football in 1991, but not there at the beginning.
Thus, we have a unit that stabilized an entire franchise and only three of its members were constants for the entire time. Doesn’t that heighten the historic value and Hall of Fame cache of Jacoby, Russ Grimm and Jeff Bostic? Grimm is already in the Hall of Fame. Bostic only made one Pro Bowl, and was more an example of steadiness. But Jacoby was an example of greatness. Contemporaries that played against him, notably New York Giants’ linebacker Lawrence Taylor, have vouched for Jacoby’s HOF credentials.
It’s a mystery to me how Joe Jacoby was eligible for the Hall of Fame for 18 years and never even made it as a finalist. It’s another mystery to why he doesn’t have a gold bust in Canton. But based on this year’s voting, maybe when next year’s inductees are announced in Houston justice will finally be served.