By Jim Corbett
USA TODAY Sports
Deacon Jones, the iconic Los Angeles Rams game wrecker who died at 74 Monday night, was more than the inventor of the term "sack.'' He was a pioneer for the pass-rushing greats -- and front fours -- who followed, former NFL coach Bill Parcells told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.
Guys like Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Michael Strahan and Bruce Smith owe a debt of gratitude to the relentless disrupter, who died of natural causes in his Southern California home.
"Deacon was the first prototypical outside speed-power rusher in the history of the league," Parcells said. "He was formidable at what he did, could do things physically to you. And then, he also could out-maneuver you with speed. He was the first of those dynamic pass rushers everybody in the league is looking for now.''
Parcells knows about the search for pass rushers, having spent much of his Hall-of-Fame coaching career doing just that. The former Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys coach -- who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3 along with the rest of the 2013 class -- spent much of his life studying the great defensive units.
Parcells considers the "Fearsome Foursome'' of Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier the forerunners of a movement that lives on today.
"The Rams were among the very first teams that tried to put power inside to push from the interior and speed on the corner of the pass rush,'' Parcells said. "They definitely had a philosophy in place in that regard.
"Deacon was just a shade before my time as a coach, but not as an NFL observer. I can recall people talking about how the Rams had such a dynamic rush by virtue of Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy and Deacon being outside. That was a pretty formidable outfit.''
Jones was the trail blazer who finished with 173.5 sacks during his career, according to research by pro football historian, John Turney. Sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982.
Grier, 80, is the last surviving member of the "Fearsome Foursome'' that showed the way for the Dallas Cowboys "Doomsday Defense'' and the Minnesota Vikings "Purple People Eaters'' of the 1970s.
"If you start thinking back to the Dallas Cowboys with "Too Tall'' Jones, Harvey Martin and Bob Lilly inside, they tried to emulate that particular blueprint,'' Parcells said. "And the Vikings were the same way, with Carl Eller and Jim Marshall and then power inside, copying the Rams blueprint, too.''
Parcells didn't meet Jones until last August, when he presented 2012 Hall of Fame class member, his former Patriots and Jets running back Curtis Martin. Parcells didn't know Jones well, but he knows how much Jones meant to the evolution of the game.
"You judge a guy by those who follow,'' Parcells said. "There are people who have spent their careers trying to find those kind of players like Deacon Jones.''