A little more than 18 years ago, Michael Strahan broke Mark Gastineau’s NFL single-season sack record.
Gastineau hasn’t let it go.
Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks in a single season is impressive, yet controversial. With Strahan needing one more sack to pass Gastineau and time running out on the 2001 season, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre changed a play in the huddle and rolled to his right, where he slid down to give Strahan a very easy sack.
The way Strahan got his final sack certainly tainted the record. It certainly is a sore spot for Gastineau, who held onto his feelings until this week.
Mark Gastineau on sack record: ‘Tarnished’
Gastineau was one of the NFL’s true characters in the 1980s. He also had a remarkable stretch of football for the New York Jets from 1982-85, making first-team All-Pro three times. He peaked in 1984 with 22 sacks. In the 35 years since, only one player has had more than 22 sacks in a season.
That was Strahan, but Gastineau believes he’s still the record holder.
"It's my record, and I want it to be known that it's my record," Gastineau told ESPN’s Rich Cimini. "I'm not going to say, 'I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.' It's my record."
Though Gastineau congratulated Strahan at the time and didn’t complain in the years after, he said the way he lost the record “goes through my head all the time.”
"It's a good record and it took me a long time to get that," Gastineau told ESPN. "It took a lot of work, a lot of work to get that record. So many years I worked my butt off to get it, and I finally got it, and it shouldn't have been cheapened like it was. It's like a tarnished record."
Did Brett Favre give Michael Strahan the record?
It’s very, very hard to believe Favre didn’t gift Strahan the record. Late in the season finale, Favre changed the play from a run to a pass without telling anyone. Tight end Bubba Franks, thinking it was the run play that was called, didn’t block Strahan. Favre maintained that the sack was legitimate, but that takes a pretty big leap of faith.
While the record may be cheapened or tarnished, as Gastineau said, it has been 18 years. The NFL isn’t going to reverse anything now. Strahan has held the record now longer than Gastineau did.
It is still an odd record because of the way it was broken. Perhaps someday one of the great defenders in the NFL will reach 23 sacks and the controversy will no longer exist. Until then, Gastineau won’t be happy.
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