One of the biggest moments of Michael Strahan’s career also came with the most controversy.
In the final regular-season game of 2001, Strahan, who was so close to breaking former New York Jets defender Mark Gastineau’s single-season sack record of 22 set in 1984, made NFL history.
He beat his blocker, Green Bay Packers tight end Bubba Franks around the edge and sacked quarterback Brett Favre for a seven-yard loss with 2:46 left in the game, giving him 22.5 sacks for he season.
That record-breaking sack, however, immediately stirred the the critics, many of whom suggested that Favre, as friend of Strahan’s, had purposely taken a dive to help the defensive end in his quest for the record.
Adding fuel to the fire were comments made by Jim Fassel, the Giants head coach at the time, who suggested that it was indeed feasible that Favre took a dive for Strahan.
According to a transcript generated by NFL.com, Fassel said the following:
If players have respect for that person, and he's close to breaking a record—I mean, you know, you've seen it in baseball, a guy's going to have a home-run record, an RBI record, if it doesn't matter to the game they'll put a fastball (down the middle) and let him knock it out of here. So if they have respect for the player, sometimes, 'I'm gonna let you get it.'
Strahan, who admitted that the single-season sack record was diminished a bit because of the circumstances, fired back at his critics:
I caught so much flak over it. It's not worth it, because everyone looks as if one sack that they question is the defining moment of my career. … I didn't have a sack in the first three weeks of the season. So from four weeks on, 13 games, 22-and-a-half sacks. That's hard to match, and I've never spoken like this about it, because I've always kind of taken it, but I always have to say, if you don't like it, then break it.
Many have tried to break his record, but other than Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, who in 2012 finished with 20.5 sacks, no one else has really come close.