Joe Klecko, left, had his #73 uniform retired at halftime....

Joe Klecko, left, had his #73 uniform retired at halftime. The other retired Jets, Joe Namath, center, and Don Maynard, right, applaud Klecko Sunday, December 26, 2004.  Credit: Newsday/David L. Pokress

To hear Marty Lyons, the question of whether or not Joe Klecko will one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not the one that should be asked.

Instead, Lyons wonders why his Sack Exchange teammate hasn’t already been inducted.

“He should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago,” Lyons told Newsday during a quiet moment at his foundation’s Celebrity Golf Classic and dinner at Old Westbury Golf and Country Club on Monday. “The Hall of Fame … [needs] to listen, not just to the voters but they need to listen to members who are in the Hall of Fame. Like Anthony Munoz and Dwight Stephenson and Joe DeLamielleure.

“These guys played against Joe for years. And if they’re saying Joe was one of the best and they’re in the Hall of Fame, what’s that say about Joe?”

Klecko was named one of the 24 finalists for the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class last week, and his candidacy will be debated by the 12-person Seniors Committee on Aug. 16.

One of the cornerstone pieces of the Sack Exchange defensive line with Lyons, Mark Gastineau and Abdul Salaam, Klecko spent 11 of his 12 NFL seasons with the Jets — he played his final season with the Colts in 1988 — and recorded nine fumble recoveries and 78 sacks in 155 games. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, twice was named first-team All-Pro, and was the 1981 United Press International Defensive Player of the Year.

“[Klecko was] a guy who made every player that lined up with him a better player,” Lyons said. The Jets qualified for the playoffs four times between 1981-86, reaching the AFC Championship Game in 1982. “It’s not Joe’s fault we didn’t go to a Super Bowl. It’s not Joe’s fault we didn’t win our division all the time. If we all played with the intensity that Joe did, then it would have made us a better team.”

Even though it has been nearly 40 years since the Sack Exchange wreaked havoc upon the NFL, the bond between Klecko, Lyons and Gastineau remains intact.

“His foundation is a big deal,” Klecko said. “We see each other when Marty really needs us.”

The foundation, now in its 40th year, was holding its 36th annual golf tournament. Along with Lyons, Klecko and Gastineau, former Jets Erik McMillan, Greg Buttle, Ken Schroy, Vinny Testaverde and Wayne Chrebet were among those in attendance. During the dinner, the foundation raffled off autographed memorabilia in order to raise money to grant wishes to terminally ill children.

Along with passionately stumping for Klecko’s induction into the Hall of Fame and reminiscing about days gone by while raising money for a good cause, the former Jets shared their belief that brighter days are ahead for the franchise.

“I’m really thinking that this season could be something special,” MacMillan said. “I’m expecting that we’re going to improve significantly.”  

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