The NFL played its first game on October 3, 1920, when the Dayton Triangles faced off against the Columbus Panhandles.
The league did not legalize the forward pass as we currently know it, however, until the start of the 1933 season. So it likely came to pass on the afternoon of September 17, 1933, that a defensive player sacked an opposing quarterback for the first time under the new rules.
This brings us to today and Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.
Following his two-sack performance in the season-opening win against the Carolina Panthers, Garrett now has 60.5 career sacks. Barring an injury, Garrett will take his place atop Cleveland’s all-time sack list, possibly as early as this season.
But who is Garrett actually chasing and how many sacks does he need to take over the No. 1 spot?
That is a bit murky because, for reasons only known to the NFL, the league did not start counting sacks as an official stat until 1982. Going by that standard, linebacker Clay Matthews has the top slot with 62 sacks, leaving Garrett just two sacks away from supplanting Matthews.
But Matthews obviously had sacks in the four seasons he played before 1982, and while that period in time is ancient history for some, it is not as if Matthews played in the 1920s. There are game records and game films that can easily be attained, and pretending otherwise is on par with Pittsburgh Steeler fans acting like there were no NFL champions prior to the Super Bowl era, and no one wants to be associated with Steeler fans.
This is where John Turney and Nick Webster, both members of the Pro Football Researchers Association, enter the story.
Turney and Webster spent decades researching NFL game statistics dating back to the 1960 season. Their research was so thorough that Pro Football Reference posted new individual and single-season sack totals for players, which not only bumped Matthews up to 75 career sacks with the Browns, but brought defensive end Bill Glass into the picture.
A first-round selection of the Detroit Lions in 1957, Glass arrived in Cleveland in 1962 as part of a multi-player trade with the Lions and played for the Browns from 1962 to 1968, earning four trips to the Pro Bowl and being a member of the 1964 NFL Championship team.
During that time, Glass totaled 77.5 sacks, according to Turney and Webster’s research, which not only puts him 2.5 sacks ahead of Matthews but a full 17 sacks ahead of Garrett.
The Browns, for their part, do not officially recognize Glass’ sacks totals, but in the team media guide they do list Matthews as No. 1 in all-time sacks with 76.5 (No explanation for where they came up with that extra 1.5 sacks, however.)
So even for those fans who do not buy into Pro Football Reference’s data, the fact that the Browns list Matthews with those additional sacks lends another layer of authenticity to the numbers.
At some point very soon, perhaps this Sunday against the New York Jets or in Week 3 against the Steelers, Garrett will notch two more sacks and the announcers will proclaim him the franchise’s new all-time sacks leader but the smart Browns fan will know that is not true.
Garrett will take over the top spot soon enough, everyone will just have to be patient for a little while longer for him to surpass Matthews and Glass and take his place as the franchise’s best at sacking the quarterback.