The quarterback sack is a storied art dating back to the days of Deacon Jones in the 1960s. Jones helped establish the importance of the play, with 173.5 career sacks over 13 NFL seasons. But the “Secretary of Defense,” as Jones was notoriously known during his playing days, is also credited with coining the term.
Jones’ use of the expression wasn’t merely to make it a popular piece of football verbiage. Rather, he intended it as a reflection of the term’s most primitive meaning. Simply put, a quarterback sack was meant to cause as much devastation to an offense as a city would feel when it was sacked during ancient times.
Jones lived out the implication of his words, piling up his sacks at a time when the sack wasn’t even a defensive metric or recorded statistic. His performances led to the stat becoming an official statistic.
Now, in an age where the sack is widely regarded as an all-important gauge of defensive success, Aldon Smith holds office as the Secretary of Defense.
Smith, just 23 years old and in only his second NFL season, heads an elite class of sack artists across the league. Many view Jared Allen, who fell just short of the single-season record with 22 sacks in 2011; Demarcus Ware, who has now recorded 10-plus sacks in seven straight seasons; or even Clay Matthews as the sack masters. But Smith is the newly anointed leader of the pack.
After a rookie campaign that saw Smith bring down opposing quarterbacks 14 times and snubbed by Von Miller for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Smith has emerged even more dangerous in his second year.
The season started off swiftly for Smith, who racked up 4 1/2 sacks in his first four games and five more over the 49ers’ past three games. But Monday night’s 5 1/2-sack rampage on Bears backup Jason Campbell was just the icing on the already delicious ice cream cake. His was a San Francisco treat so special that the 49ers embarrassed the Bears to the tune of a 32-7 blowout.
Smith clearly deserves more respect.
So much attention is given to J.J. Watt, who has 11.5 sacks, Von Miller (13 sacks) and of course Charles “Peanut” — gotta love that nickname — Tillman for the Defensive Player of the Year award earlier this season. Now, in light of recent developments, Smith has to at least be in the conversation.
Smith not only leads the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks on the season, but his 5 1/2-sack performance also set a new Monday Night Football record. The numbers are impressive, but Smith’s arsenal of talents may be even more remarkable given his combination of speed, strength and agile moves off the edge.
Plenty of talented players are coming off the edge all across football, but Smith is quickly becoming the best. He’s grown into a quarterback agitator and is beginning to cause the “devastation” Jones described in his initial definition of the sack.
So, while Smith may not break Michael Strahan‘s single-season sack record of 22 1/2 or even cross the 20-sack plateau this season, he has definitely taken the league by storm. And he’s taking the title of “sack king” along with it.
1. RG3, QB, Redskins — UP: RG3 missed just one completion on 15 throws on Sunday. Now, at 4-6, I wonder if Mike Shanahan is still looking toward next season.
2. Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers — UP: Alex Smith who? Kaepernick appears to be the real deal, and the entire Bay Area knows it. Now we’re just waiting on the San Francisco uprisings to start.
3. Cardinals QBs — DOWN: Matt Ryan threw five picks, and he still wasn’t the worst quarterback on the field at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
4. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans — UP: Holy smokes — 527 yards passing. That must be some kind of record. Let’s see how many he puts up in Detroit on Thursday.
5. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers — Down: When Justin Timberlake started singing “Cry Me a River” in 2002, Rivers was still in college. But Chargers fans may actually be taking that advice seriously given Rivers’ dreadful season. Stop throwing interceptions or the #TradeRivers hashtag may rival #FireNorv soon enough.
6. Chad Henne, QB, Jaguars — UP: Henne kept pace — well, almost — with Schaub in Houston over the weekend. Four touchdowns and no turnovers later, he may have landed himself a starting job for the rest of the season.