Joe Walton, Giants star who found futility as Jets coach, dies at 85

Joe Walton, who as a player helped the Giants play three straight NFL Championship games in the early 1960s with his exceptional passes ...


Joe Walton, who as a player helped the Giants play three straight NFL Championship games in the early 1960s with his exceptional passes and blocks, but who has seen far less success as a coach of the other NFL team in New York, the Jets, during most of the 1980s, died Sunday in Englewood, Florida. He was 85 years old.

Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, announced his death, but did not provide a cause. Walton was hired as the university’s first football head coach when it was known as Robert Morris College and coached the team for 20 years.

Walton first gained national attention as an All-American wide receiver at the University of Pittsburgh in 1956. Washington picked him in the second round of the 1957 NFL Draft, and he spent four seasons there before. to be sent to the Giants in July 1961 in a three-team deal.

At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Walton was undersized for his stance, tight end. But he thrived on coach Allie Sherman’s offense, which featured YA Tittle as a quarterback, who has been cited as calling Walton “the best third receiver in the game, bar none.”

As Giants Hall of Fame half-back Frank Gifford, told the New York Times in 1983, the year Walton was named head coach of the Jets, “Joe pulled more miles out of his body than anyone else. “

“He wasn’t fast. He was not tall. But he was a thinker, ”Gifford said. “He was always the last guy on the training ground. He worked hard. He had to.

“As small as he was,” he added, “Joe blocked the linebackers and defensive ends. He had the initial charge. He would come out like a ball.

Despite all their talent, the Giants were stranded in their championship games of the 1960s, losing twice to the Green Bay Packers and then to the Chicago Bears in 1963.

After his playing career ended, Walton coached or offensive coordinator for the Giants and Washington, then worked as the offensive coordinator for the Jets in 1981 and 1982, Walt michaels‘s the last two seasons as a head coach.

With the exception of the Jets’ stunning 1968 season, which was capped off by their upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III behind star quarterback Joe Namath – who like Walton was from Beaver Falls, Pa. – the Jets had never reached a league championship game before Walton took over.

“Joe has fielded some of the franchise’s most productive offenses,” the Jets said in a statement. “He was a good man who took care of his players and loved football.”

However, in his seven seasons as a head coach, Walton, like Michaels before him, rarely took the Jets out of mediocrity.

He took them to the playoffs in 1985, but they lost to the New England Patriots in a wildcard game of the American Football Conference. They got off to a 10-1 start in 1986 but suffered a string of linebacker and inside linemen injuries and lost their last five games.

The Jets then beat the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild game. But they were beaten by the Cleveland Browns, 23-20, in double overtime in a divisional title game after leading by 10 points at the end of the fourth quarter. A penalty for manhandling the passer called Mark Gastineau for a late hit on Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, leading to a touchdown, turned out to be a heavy blow.

The Jets were plagued by the division during an NFL players’ strike in 1987, when defensive linemen Gastineau, Joe Klecko and Marty Lyons and center Joe Fields, their captain, took the field alongside of replacement players who filled the rosters for two games before the walkout ended. They finished 6-9 in a season shortened by one game.

Walton acknowledged his role in the team’s troubles that year. “I admitted that I probably didn’t handle the situation very well,” he said according to the New York Times ‘Gerald Eskenazi in “Gang Green” (1998), an account of the Jets’ misadventures over the years. years. “The strike probably injured our team. Some coaches just let the new guys who came in to do it themselves, didn’t even train them. My mistake was trying to train the kids who came in, and some vets didn’t want it.

In December 1989, chants of “Joe must go” in the stands at Giants Stadium in Meadowlands, New Jersey, where the Jets played their home games, reverberated when the Jets lost to the Buffalo Bills, 37- 0, to end at 4-12. Walton was fired by Dick Steinberg, the new general manager of the Jets, who also emptied his coaching staff and the front office.

The Walton Jets have won 53 games, lost 57 and tied one.

After his stint with the Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Walton as their offensive coordinator for 1990 and 1991.

He was hired in 1993 to form the first football team at Robert Morris College, which in 2002 became Robert Morris University. There, he led teams that have won or tied the Northeastern Conference Championships six times in his 20 seasons as a coach, compiling a record 114-92-1. Robert Morris football stadium is named after him.

Joseph Frank Walton was born December 15, 1935 to Frank and Ida (Hendrickson) Walton. His father predated him as a football player at Beaver Falls High School, Pitt and Washington and was also an assistant coach in the NFL.

Joe Walton played for the Pitt teams which faced Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl and Gator Bowl, losing both times. In his seven seasons of play in the NFL, he caught 178 passes for 2,628 yards and 28 touchdown receptions.

His survivors include his wife, Patty Sheehan Walton; two daughters, Jodi and Stacy, and a son, Joe, from his marriage to his first wife, Ginger, who died in 2007; and six grandchildren. He lived in Englewood.

Walton’s career as a head coach in the NFL of the 1980s intertwined with the franchise he played for in the 1960s.

With the exception of his first year as coach of the Jets, Walton, his players and their supporters have been thrown into the shadow of the Giants; the Jets have played all eight home games each season at Giants Stadium after leaving Shea Stadium in Queens.

“It’s like playing 16 away games,” Walton said in “Gang Green,” recalling the lack of inspiration from the stands.

“After a few years their big Long Island fan base was gone, gave up,” he said of the Jets. “No matter how many banners you put up, it’s still Giants Stadium.”

Jordan Allen contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Joe Walton, Giants star who found futility as Jets coach, dies at 85
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