Michael Strahan, who retired from the NFL after 15 seasons, finished his career with 22 sacks. In just four seasons in the league, T.J. Watt broke that record and is currently on pace to break it again this season (Watt has 24 sacks through 10 games).
If he does so, would it be fair to say that Watt’s sack numbers are more legitimate than those posted by Robert Quinn?
The “nfl sack record” is a question that has been asked for years. The NFL’s official site says the record was broken by T.J. Watt and Robert Quinn, but some people say it isn’t legit because Michael Strahan did not play in the game.
With three games remaining in this initial 18-week, 17-game NFL season, it remains to be seen whether the sports world can be persuaded to take sides in one of its favorite pastimes: the “asterisk” discussion.
After Week 8, we figured we’d be talking about Derrick Henry and the possibility of him surpassing Eric Dickerson’s 38-year single-season running record of 2,015 yards, which he established back in the days of a 16-game season in 1984.
But Henry’s season was cut short due to a foot injury, and the most enticing of all NFL single-season records was no longer on the line.
However, there is now an individual defensive record that might be shattered during the next three weeks. With 221 sacks in 2001, the New York Giants defensive end established the NFL single-season record. It’s a 20-year milestone that comes with its own set of issues, all of which call into doubt the milestone’s validity in the first place.
There are now two players who have gotten close enough to make things interesting. The one thing that neither Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end T.J. Watt nor Chicago Bears lineman Robert Quinn will take with them into the record books, despite all the hyperbole that may fill talk radio, hot-take TV, or your local favorite meeting spot, is an asterisk.
Seriously. Don’t even bother going there.
The asterisk has been around for 60 years and has never served anybody well.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Michael Strahan
In athletics, we’re all familiar with asterisks. Of course, there was Roger Maris in 1961, who blasted 61 home runs in the inaugural 162-game Major League Baseball season following decades of a 154-game season. The concept of beating Babe Ruth’s historic record of 60 home runs, which he hit in 1927, appeared blasphemous to baseball’s establishment even a decade after his death in 1948, since he was still a mythological figure in the game. Never mind that Maris’ New York Yankees would keep the record: the game’s commissioner, Ford Frick, a Babe Ruth biographer, ordered that if Maris passed the Babe after Game 154, the difference in games played should be documented in the record book. As a result, the asterisk entered the sports vocabulary.
Despite the fact that there was never a genuine asterisk in the record book, the point was made. Commissioner Fay Vincent did not erase the distinction until 1991, and Maris was given his due posthumously.
Except in one circumstance, suiting the ferocity of the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers rivalry, football has never had such a designation.
In 1989, the Packers were granted a game-winning score against the Bears that was initially declared an illegal forward throw, according to replay rules that were considerably different from those in use today. Before throwing the game-winning touchdown, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was first deemed to have crossed the scrimmage line. But, to the Bears’ eternal dismay, a replay official watching from above called down to the field, the ref went under the hood, and the call was overturned, and the score remained.
The Bears were so enraged by the course of events that they inserted an asterisk next to this game in the 1989 season results page, noting “Instant Replay Game.”
In 2021, the season may consist of 18 games, however the numbers to consider are 16 and 15.
T.J. Watt, who is just five sacks behind Strahan, enters Week 16 with 1712 sacks. Quinn has a total of 16 sacks heading into the weekend. Both teams will be the new single-season sack champions if they can average two sacks per game the rest of the way.
And it may be enough to spark a discussion about the legitimacy of records under the new reality of a 17th game. This is the first time the league has increased the amount of games played in a season since 1977, when the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the league as expansion clubs, bringing the total to 28. The regular season was also extended from 14 to 16 games as a result of this decision.
And that was about to change in 1984, when Los Angeles Rams rushing back Eric Dickerson broke O.J. Simpson’s single-season yardage record of 2,003 yards set in 1973 by four yards in his 15th game. Dickerson would conclude Game 16 with a career-high 2,105 yards, a number that holds to this day.
In 1984, however, Simpson, who was still regarded as a sports great and hero, put a stop to any chance of Dickerson being Fricked.
When Simpson’s record was broken, he told the New York Times, “They shouldn’t put an asterisk next to it.” “Only football fans understand, and that’s all that counts.” I’m not going to lose anything. I still hold the distinction of being the first to run over 2,000 yards.” In reality, the NFL has opted not to place an asterisk next to a Dickerson record, just as it did not place one next to Simpson’s name when he broke Jim Brown’s 12-game record.
After surpassing O.J., Dickerson stated, “Perhaps someday I’ll accomplish it in 14 games, too.” “I’m curious as to what happens if someone tries for 3,000 yards.”
If Watt or Quinn earn the 23rd sack in Week 18, there’s even less reason to be concerned about them. Watt has already missed two games due to injury this season, so even if he plays the last three games, he would have only appeared in 15 games in total — and that doesn’t include the two games he left early due to injury and did not return to.
Quinn has only missed one game, which means he can only play a total of 16 games, the same as Strahan did in 2001. There is no benefit. There is no asterisk.
Isn’t Strahan’s record worth preserving in the first place?
Officially, it is Strahan’s record, although he is still in second position in actuality (and the whole Favre thing)
Strahan was still a half-sack behind the record-holder at the time, Mark Gastineau, and his 22 in Eric Dickerson’s record-setting season of 1984 entering his 16th and final game of the 2001 season (sacks only became a stat in 1982, more than that later).
Strahan was still without a sack with just under three minutes left in that last game against the Packers, and with the ball and a nine-point lead, the Packers didn’t need to run any more pass plays. Brett Favre, on the other hand, slid back, then turned into Strahan’s equally-curious unimpeded route, and there it was: the sack record.
It was a hoax, and everyone knew it, but it still counted, and Strahan has always been a kind person, so it was paid with a wink and a nod, and life went on.
However, after to meticulous study by Pro-Football-Reference earlier this year, it was established, unofficially, that Strahan was still in second place. Since sacks were not officially recorded until 1982, PFR conducted significant research and determined that Detroit Lions rookie Al Baker set the record with 23 sacks (in 16 games) in 1978.
So let’s see whether Watt can get six more sacks or if Quinn can get eight. Then, even with an odd-numbered schedule of games, there will be no more concerns about the odd record.
Michael Strahan, we’re sorry, but new and long-awaited research says you’re not the single-season king.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did T.J. Watt break Strahan sack record?
A: No, Watt did not break the sack record. The NFL does not keep track of sacks broken by defensive lineman and its likely Strahan never broke any records because there is no official record set on that aspect.
How close is T.J. Watt to the sack record?
A: T.J. Watt has a sack record of 3 sacks in 22 games played, which makes his sack record 5/22
Did T.J. Watt break the single season sack record?
- single season sack record