State Your Case: Joe Jacoby

Joe Jacoby photo curtesy of Washington Redskins

The counter trey is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.

The Washington Redskins hired Joe Gibbs as their head coach in 1981, and he brought along Joe Bugel to coach his offensive line. Gibbs also coaxed running back John Riggins out of retirement and replaced four starters on the offensive line — everyone to the left of right tackle George Starke.

Redskins’ general manager Bobby Beathard used a first-round draft pick on right guard Mark May, a third-rounder on left guard Russ Grimm and signed lanky left tackle Joe Jacoby as an undrafted college free agent. Gibbs also promoted second-year man Jeff Bostic to center, then unleashed his Hogs and the counter trey on the NFL.

That running play became a staple of three Super Bowl champions. It helped Gibbs, Riggins and Grimm earn busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and put Beathard in the queue as a contributor candidate. But the Redskins remain one bust light in Canton.

That would be the Jacoby bust.

“He’s one of the great stories,” Gibbs said.

Also one of the great players.

Jacoby started for three seasons in college at Louisville with his basketball body (6-7, 295 pounds). But in the 1981 NFL draft, he was not one of the 332 players selected — much less one of the 28 offensive tackles. He signed with the Redskins and emerged as a key element in the signature play of the Gibbs era.

The counter trey is the classic misdirection play. The right side of the offensive line blocks down, as if the play is going to the left. But the left guard and left tackle pull to the right. The running back takes a jab step to his left, then pivots back right for the handoff and is led through the hole by the left guard and left tackle.

“Joe was a big part of the counter trey,” Gibbs said. “You can pull guards. But how many people pull tackles? We pulled Joe. He could run. He was one of the biggest and one of the first tackles to really take people off the ball.”

The backs carrying the football changed over the years. Riggins was the feature back of the 1982 NFL champions, Timmy Smith the 1987 champs and Earnest Byner in 1991. But the one constant of the Gibbs era was Grimm and Jacoby pulling from the left side and leading the way on the right.

Jacoby was a longshot to make the Redskins as a rookie. Beathard drafted five blockers that year, and Jacoby wasn’t one of them. Not only did he make the team as a rookie, Jacoby found himself in the starting lineup at left tackle by the end of September. He spent his first eight NFL seasons there, earning four consecutive Pro Bowl berths from 1983-86.

And it wasn’t just his efforts as a run blocker in the counter trey that earned Jacoby his acclaim.

The Redskins won the Super Bowl with three different quarterbacks, and Jacoby protected the blind side for two of them — Joe Theismann and Doug Williams. He moved from left to right tackle in 1989 where he guarded the front side of Mark Rypien on the last Super Bowl champion in 1991.

Jacoby protected his quarterbacks from some of the most accomplished pass rushers in NFL history: Hall-of-Famers Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, Lee Roy Selmon, Fred Dean, Richard Dent, Rickey Jackson, Chris Doleman, Charles Haley and Derrick Thomas.

“This guy was first class, top flight,” Gibbs said. “He gave it everything he had.”

“Everything he had” was enough for Jacoby to earn those three Super Bowl rings. It also was enough for him to earn NFL all-decade acclaim for the 1980s. It should be enough to merit him consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jacoby retired after the 1993 season and became eligible for Canton in 1999 after the mandatory five-year waiting period. He’s been a six-time semifinalist in his 17 years of Hall-of-Fame eligibility but has never been a finalist. So his candidacy has never been discussed by the full selection committee. That’s an oversight that needs to be addressed.

All worthy Hall-of-Fame candidates need to be discussed. Joe Jacoby is worthy.

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  1. Rick Hunt
    December 22, 2015

    No question this is glaring error. Joe Jacoby is as good as any offensive lineman already in Hall of Fame. He belongs in there as his right place in NFL history.

  2. Rick Hunt
    December 22, 2015


  3. December 22, 2015

    Joe Jacoby was the prototype of the big-power left tackle of NFL football…Hopefully he’ll be selected for the 2016 HOF Class. Please see the HOGETTES Facebook page for the “66 Reasons Why Joe Jacoby Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame”.

  4. Nige Vickerstaff
    December 22, 2015

    As a Brit with a passion for the NFL and the Redskins in particular, Joe became one of my heroes. During the 90’s a small group UK based Redskin fans and some from south Florida met up with Joe at the old Redskin Park to present him with an award from the south Florida group. Although only a brief meeting it was a real pleasure and honour to meet a terrific football player and a true gentleman. It’s time the HOF saw fit to enshrine one of the game’s all-time great tackles.

  5. Steve Sherman
    December 22, 2015

    I enjoy and focus on offensive line play. Jacoby was one of the best. I would love to see a highlight reel. One block stands out in the Super Bowl vs the Bill – Jacoby pulled and blew the linebacker back 6 yards. I love that stuff. If left tackles of Jacoby’s era were voting – they’d vote Joe into the Hall.

  6. bachslunch
    March 5, 2016

    Now that it looks like Joe Jacoby is on the verge of induction, it’s entirely fair to consider players such as Mike Kenn and Marvin Powell for the HoF. Jacoby’s postseason honors consist of 3 first team all pro selections, 4 pro bowls, and 80s all decade team membership (3/4/80s). Kenn and Powell have virtually identical profiles at 3/5/none. Kenn still has three years of regular eligibility left while Powell has fallen into the Senior pool. I don’t see any other appreciable difference between them other than Jacoby’s being on an offensive line with a cool nickname.

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