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File | Associated Press
In this 1971 photo, Los Angeles Ram's Deacon Jones, center, knocks the ball loose from the San Diego Chargers' Mike Garrett.

The Deacon bows out

So, you want to know just how big a deal Deacon Jones was?

He invented the quarterback sack.

OK, so maybe he didn't invent it -- other guys hit quarterbacks before the Deacon -- but he did give the play the identity that defines how we judge defensive linemen to this day. And, yes, no one called it a "sack" before Deacon.

And now he's gone, at 74. Which means three of the Fearsome Foursome (Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier) have gone to their reward, leaving Grier as the only survivor.

And here's who I'm thinking right now because of that: Johnny Unitas.

Who died back in 2002.

And who spent more than one Sunday afternoon fleeing from the Deacon and his pals.

And who no doubt, up there in heaven, looked up this morning, saw Deacon slipping through the pearly gates, and thought this:


Ben Smith's blog.