Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Hall of Fame Defensive Ends—Most Sacks Final NFL Season

 By John Turney 
J.J. Watt
Today, defensive end J.J. Watt has announced that 2022 will be his final season, ending a 12-year NFL career.—
He played a decade in Houston with the Texans and has spent the last two years in the Desert with the Cardinals. He was a three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time First-team All-pro, and a five-time Pro Bowler and currently has 111.5 sacks. With those credentials, he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

This season he's played 14 games with two left on the schedule and has 9.5 sacks, an unusually high number for a defensive end in his final year. In those two games, he could pull ahead of Jack Youngblood who had 9.5 in 1984 and was playing in a 3-4 defense that year (and the previous year) and was a Second-team All-NFC selection and a Pro Bowl first alternate.

Sacks, Final NFL Season, Hall of Fame Defensive Ends
Player, Year, Sacks, Honors
J.J. Watt, 2022—9.5
Jack Youngblood, 1984—9.5; Second-team All-NFC
Michael Strahan, 2007—9.0
Doug Atkins, 1969—8.0
Lee Roy Selmon, 1984—8.0; Pro Bowl
Chris Doleman, 1999—8.0
Willie Davis, 1969—7.0
Jason Taylor, 2001—7.0
Andy Robustelli, 1964—6.5
Howie Long, 1993—6.0; Pro Bowl
Reggie White, 2000—5.5
Bruce Smith, 2003—5.0
Julius Peppers, 2018—5.0
Robert Mathis, 2016—5.0
Richard Dent, 1997—4.5
Claude Humphrey, 1981—4.0
Ed Sprinkle, 1955—at least 3.5, full total not known
Deacon Jones, 1974—3.0
Carl Eller, 1979—3.0
Charles Haley, 1999—3.0
Fred Dean, 1985—3.0
Richard Seymour, 2012—3.0
Dwight Freeney, 2017—3.0
Len Ford, 1958—2.5
Jared Allen, 2015—2.0
Gino Marchetti, 1966—0.0
Elvin Bethea, 1983—0.0


  1. From Brian wolf ...

    I can see where Watt wants to go out on his own terms with good play this year but remember, its the Cardinals. I dont think his retirement will stay permanent but we will see.

  2. John, for the purposes of your post/comparison and as Nick has pointed out, Mr. Marchetti's 1966 should not be taken literally as his "final" NFL season. After a full year's retirement, he came back as a personal favor to Carroll Rosenbloom to serve as a backup DT (mostly if not exclusively in short yardage situations) for a decimated Colt line....his "real" final season was the 12 sack (14 game season) at age 37 in 1964....Gino is on the Mt. Rushmore of All-Time pass rushers, and his 12 in 64 should be that with which Mr. Watt should be compared

    1. Yeah, just cannot find a way not make the 1966 season not count. It's literally there and it is real. But if someone were doing something that was not data dependent, and could use a de facto last season then you'd be right. But knowing the backstory I considered all that but simply couldn't find a way to make 1966 go away. It's just part of history. At least that is how I see it, anyway.

    2. I agree - it has to count, it just has to - but it's good context to know it was a "comeback" season. Hell, Sugar Ray Leonard has a dozen final fights, right.

    3. Wish there were a way to make it not count. I sure could not come up with one

  3. From Brian wolf ...

    For Nick or John. What happened with Fred Dean in 1984 and 1985? Did his contract dispute in 84, lead to injuries, though he was effective in the postseason and in 85 did he get injured or just lost his desire for football?

    1. as far as I know he was healthy in 1985. I think it was just a so-so year and got cut in 86 off-season...not sure why the drop off . . .

    2. From Brian wolf ...

      Maybe winning his second ring with the Niners made him disinterested or complacent in 1985. He didnt do anything in the playoff against the Giants as well and Walsh may have had enough. Still surprised no other team tried to obtain him in 1986.

    3. The Raiders wanted him after the 49ers cut him, gave him a tryout and offered him a contract. Dean didn't like the deal and walked away from it.

    4. Thanks John, I didnt know that ...

  4. From Brian wolf ...

    I also felt Freeney could have played more and been effective with Seattle his final season but the coaches went more to youth while keeping him on the bench.
    Imagine if a lot of these great rushers were used better, situationally ...

  5. Which defensive end was operating at the highest level in their last season would you say? I thought Michael Strahan was top notch in his final year. I have heard Lee Roy Selmon was still great in his last season as well. Need to see more of Lee Roy in his last year. Howie Long was still probably a high red grade player in his last year correct?

    1. In soccer there's the concept of "form" which is a combination of skill and fitness in that sense I think final season Strahan was amongst the best along with Atkins, Watt and Youngblood which - 100% unintentionally lines up with the top sackers.

    2. And again Marchetti's de facto last season, his intentional last season comes up - he ran a 4.9 in camp that year. Asked him about it and he said that was the fastest he ever ran. He, presumably was trying to be in good shape at 37 and go out strong.