Deacon Jones: coiner of football term “sacking [the quarterback]? 
Posted: 06 June 2013 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  359
Joined  2012-01-10

David “Deacon” Jones, who was a great defensive player in American football who played from the 1960s through 1974, recently passed away.  Many recent news stories report that, among other things, he coined the football slang-term “sack”, which, to oversimplify, generally refers to tackling the quarterback (or another offensive player) before the ball has crossed the line of scrimmage.  Thus, if the quarterback is sacked, this means that the offense not only hasn’t advanced the ball, but has lost yardage.  The slang term “sack” has firmly imbedded itself into football, so being the coiner of the phrase would be a nice linguistic feather to have in one’s cap.

Wikipedia’s article on sacks (the football sense) repeats the claim that Deacon Jones is the coiner of the term, and cites an article on CNN’s website that was generated after Jones died, and which, itself, relies on Jone’s claim in an interview that he coined the expression. dates the football sense of “sack” to 1969, but gives no details as to who coined it.  Jones was still playing in 1969, so the date is about right, but that, of course, doesn’t prove that he coined it: it just doesn’t rule it out.

As notes, Jones publicly claimed credit for coining the term, and, in a somewhat confusing quote, seemed to indicate both that it was an analogy to an invading army sacking a town, but also that the underlying metaphor was of putting the offensive players in a sack and beating them with a stick.  (Jones wasn’t exactly a gentle giant).

I haven’t been able to find anything very definitive that either supports or disproves the claim that Jones coined the term.  I don’t have any reason to discount it out of hand, but I’ve learned to be skeptical of claims of this kind in general, and, here, there is an additional issue in that people may be less skeptical of this claim than they should be because it would make for a good story if a formidable defensive player who is famous for sacking quarterbacks also turned out to be the coiner of the expression.  (Of course, every once in a while a neat little story turns out to be true.)