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Former Jets D-Coordinator Joe Gardi Mourned

Posted by Randy Lange on June 4, 2010 – 11:00 am

The Jets this year have lost another key contributor to their past. It has been reported that Joe Gardi died Wednesday at the age of 71.

Gardi, a Jets assistant coach from 1976-84, passed away due to complications from a stroke, his son, David, told Newsday.

Gardi had many connections to the Jets over the years. He joined the Green & White in 1976 as special teams coach, added the linebackers to his areas of responsibility in 1980, then became defensive coordinator in the New York Sack Exchange era in 1981 and added assistant head coach under Joe Walton to his résumé for 1983-84.

"Joe was a big part of our lives," Joe Klecko told newyorkjets.com this morning. "He had a vibrant attitude toward everything. He was liked by everybody. I don’t think he had an enemy on the team because of the way he handled things."

In particular, Klecko remembered the way Gardi handled his D-coordinator role helped the Sack Exchange achieve greatness, beginning with the franchise-record 66 sacks registered in ’81.

"He recognized what we had in our four-man front there," Klecko recalled. "A lot of coaches try to corral your enthusiasm, but he let us play and it showed."

"Joe’s the one who gave me the opportunity to play," Bruce Harper said this afternoon, reflecting back to his rookie season in 1977. "He came down to Kutztown and signed me, and he was really the one who gave me the fair shot. The only way I was going to make the team was through special teams and he was the special teams coach. I actually pulled a muscle the first week of training camp and he insisted that Walt Michaels keep me on instead of sending me home.

"Joe deserves a great tribute. He was really great to everybody."

Gardi became assistant supervisor of NFL officials from 1985-90 before returning to the coaching ranks as the head coach at Hofstra. He guided the then-Flying Dutchmen from Division III to Division I-AA and in the process coached legendary Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet through his senior year on the Long Island campus in 1994.

"Coach Gardi was all about giving people opportunities. He gave me an opportunity,” Chrebet told Newsday, echoing Harper’s memories from some 15 seasons earlier. "He believed in me and helped me to the career I ended up having."

Gardi retired from Hofstra after the 2005 season with a 119-62-2 record and six NCAA playoff appearances, five coming after the Pride made the move up to the Football Championship Subdivision. Gardi, who would occasionally come across Hempstead Turnpike from Hofstra’s football offices to check up on the Jets, also coached Saints WR Marques Colston and Raheem Morris, now in his second year as the Buccaneers’ head coach.

Gardi was a football man through and through who rose through the gridiron ranks. After playing his high school ball at Harrison, N.J., and his college ball at Maryland, he began his coaching career as a New Jersey high school coach at Oratory Prep in Summit, then moved to Roselle Park High.

He returned to Maryland as an assistant, then joined the staff of the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League in 1975. He spent three games as the head coach of the Portland Thunder before the WFL folded in ’76, then came aboard the Jets.

As special teams coach he worked with Harper, one of the NFL’s top kickoff and punt returners in the late Seventies. And during his four seasons as coordinator, his defenses were an NFL top-10 unit (fifth in yards allowed and eight in points allowed in 1981, sixth in yardage and 10th in points in 1982) in the two playoff seasons during the Sack Exchange’s heyday.

The Jets and we at newyorkjets.com offer our condolences to the Gardi family.


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Posted in Randy Lange | 21 Comments »


21 Responses to “Former Jets D-Coordinator Joe Gardi Mourned”

  1. By Ira on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    A sad loss. Condolences to his family.

  2. By Tom Spicer on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    The whole Revis thing can be blamed on AL Davis & the Raiders. They gave Nnamdi a contract that is way out of proportion to what a corner should get & now you know Revis is going to want as least as much. If we do give him that much it will hurt our chances to sign Mangold, Brick, Harris & future free agents. Revis has to settle for less if he wants to be on a championship contending team every year. If we pay him what he wants we will have him & little else.

  3. By Jackie Cooper on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    I am heartbroken over the loss of Joe…….I will miss his stories even if I do know them all by heart…..his “sexy calves” …….the way he would always say “hello darlin”……my thoughts and prayers are with Audrey, David, Joanne, Michele and the kids……..he will be so missed!!!

  4. By Tom Spicer on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    Mark is flying all the Jets WR’S to California to do extra work & to get timing down with the guys. This kid is a leader this is the type of thing you see Peyton Manning doing.

  5. By Alan on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    Tom, it can be blamed partly on Al Davis. It can also be blamed on Revis. Revis is my favorite player and he does deserve a new contract. I prefer to blame Mr.T.
    Tanny has been great at trading and signing free agents, But has repeatedly fail to negotiate long term deals. This is something that really irritates me. Tannenbaum needs to take of care of the homegrown players, he has failed to do so while being the Jets GM. Whos next besides Revis? Harris, Mangold, Brick?

  6. By Michael Kronenberg on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    Sad day indeed. Joe Gardi was an important part of the Jets post-Namath transition. His assistance in signing of Bruce Harper was important, as was his development of returner Lou Piccone, who topped nearly 1,000 yards as a KR under Gardi. Although Walt Michaels was the architect behind the great Jets’ defenses of 1981-82, it was Gardi who did much of the interacting with those players. RIP Joe!!

  7. By Constance on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    I worked with Coach Gardi and the Jets through his years with Lou Holtz and Walt Michaels and he was a wonderful man. After moving to Florida whenever I would visit the Jets I would also stop and see him at Hofstra and he always made time to visit. He always had time for Everyone and my prayers go out to his wonderful wife Audrey and two grown children, David and JoAnn.

  8. By Mike Jet Vet on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    Good man well respected he will be sorely missed rip Joe and god bless ..My condolences to his Wife and family..Tom Spicer you say blame it on Al Davis and the Raiders for Revis sitting out ? Who shall we blame when he sat out his rookie year. .He has a 6 year deal with many million still to come what don’t you understand about living up to prior commitments .. This selfish ploy has the potential to disrupt the team for what a broken agreement and more money then he can spend( Boot him )

  9. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    Spicer and Alan, thanks re Davis. But Alan, DR HAS a long-term deal and he’s trying to get out of it already. Frankly, I’m being a lot more polite on this site than I would talking about this in a bar. What I really feel is that any guy who goes too far with this stuff becomes a detriment to a team no matter how good he is. What with HK after 1 good yr with a rookie QB and lots of new guys, the Jets seem to be acting rather cocky, maybe foolish. DR makes too much noise on this one, unload him.

  10. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    Yeah, you heard me right, unload him. Let’s confront the nightmare. What could we get with 2 #1′s, as uncle joe said when the $20 mil story broke, and maybe a player or another later-round pick? Do we really have so few questions at other positions that we can afford to give any one guy the moon? Most folks on this site thought MS’s deal was too rich! And I’d trade DR to some awful team that’s years away from the playoffs, SEA, DET, or STL, to teach him a lesson. See how much fun THAT is, dude!

  11. By Mike Jet Vet on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    I’m all for Wilson taking over at CB let him learn on the Fly like that other guy then trade that other guy to KC with T-J so we can end this nonsense and move on.. I have faith Rex /Petine will get it done without that guy ,

  12. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Jun 4, 2010 | Reply

    I won’t go so far as to say “boot him,” MJV, though I admire your clear-headedness and no-nonsense attitude. I will say I’d have no problem with the Jets telling him to play this year on the existing contract and we’ll talk again in ’11. That didn’t work out too well for Leon and maybe DR would think twice. It might also give management, Rex, us fans, and even DR a little perspective if, say, we don’t make it to the playoffs after all this noise about Super Bowl glory and “the best D ever.”

  13. By Mike De La Vega Sr on Jun 5, 2010 | Reply

    ‘A sad day for Jets fans’ A fantastic coach and a great man ! Coach Gardi . He will be missed. My Condolences to the Gardi family.

  14. By Gary C on Jun 5, 2010 | Reply

    with the passing of John Wooden,it only shows more the difference of the athlete of today as opposed to yesteryear.Alcindor,Walton,Wicks,Lucious Allen. these were great players who were never above the coach or the team and it showed with their championships.even though it was college as opposed to the pros it still is working together for a cause.I am sure that never enters these athletes minds today.

  15. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Jun 5, 2010 | Reply

    Gary C., I love all those guys but let’s not get carried away, as pros they weren’t too different from those of their time and not unlike some guys today. One of my favorite funny stories has to do with Wicks on the Trailblazers. The miraculous year they won, everybody loved each other, everybody had each other’s back. The next year, they got off to a slow start over the first twenty games or so and Wicks said to gifted coach Jack Ramsey, “I checked you out, man, you’re a LOSER!”

  16. By 37 year fan on Jun 6, 2010 | Reply

    God Bless Coach Gardi and his familly. Brought us to the Championship game with Richard Todd if my memory serves me . I think I was 13 years old……. rooting.

  17. By Mike Jet Vet on Jun 6, 2010 | Reply

    Principle Tom 64 Principle as a dad what kind of example does it set when teaching children to play sports is about fair play get along with others team work discipline no I in team ETC…. yes son honor all these principles except when you sign contracts our role models do it why shouldn’t you ..That’s what this is about Revis is great problem is these antics give him and the league a blackeye unlike players D-Keller D-Harris both are unselfish and a credit to the team and game

  18. By Gary C on Jun 6, 2010 | Reply

    to jet fan tom,I know a lot of woodens players did not become stars in nba but just like coach k,if players have a common goal you can win.when these athletes enter the pros I believe many have a different mindset and in some cases winning is not everything,it is how good am I doing and what can I get out of it.

  19. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Jun 6, 2010 | Reply

    Agree with you on principles, MJV, and by the way Wooden certainly had those. And yeah, re contracts, what so many don’t seem to understand is that when one guy breaks his contract, pretty soon a lot of guys on the team want to do it. After all, why should SH settle for chump change, he was the MVP of the SB! What has DR done to compare with that? And pretty soon you can’t afford any of your good players while fans are screaming that you’re cheap. Can’t wait to see it all on HK…

  20. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Jun 6, 2010 | Reply

    Yeah, I agree with all of that on Wooden and his guys, Gary C. I just couldn’t resist telling that story of how quickly Wicks turned on Ramsey when things didn’t go well for a few weeks.

  21. By Scott C on Jun 7, 2010 | Reply

    I went to school with Coach Gardi’s son Dave at Sayville High School his Dad was a class act and a great coach…my condolences to the entire Gardi family.

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