Former Jets head coach and longtime Robert Morris leader Joe Walton died Sunday. He was 85. Walton spent 20 years coaching at Robert Morris, launching the Division I-FCS school’s football program after a decades-long run as an NFL head coach and assistant.
Walton will be best known for his time with the Jets in the 1980s. He spent nine seasons with the Jets during the decade, taking over as Gang Green’s offensive coordinator in 1981 and becoming their head coach in 1983. Walton coached the Jets for seven seasons.
After his playing career concluded, Walton moved into scouting and then coaching. He worked as a Giants scout or assistant for nine years and moved to Washington as an assistant later in 1974. Walton worked under both George Allen and Jack Pardee in Washington, becoming the team’s offensive coordinator in 1978 — when the franchise was breaking in new starting quarterback Joe Theismann — before moving to New York.
Walton went 53-57-1 as Jets head coach. The Jets, who advanced to the 1982 AFC Championship Game with Walton as OC, made the playoffs in 1985 and ’86. While the Jets of this period were known more for their pass rush, they ranked seventh on offense in 1985 and went 11-5. In 1986, they went 10-6, had two 1,000-yard receivers (Al Toon and Wesley Walker) and nearly upset the Browns in a double-overtime divisional-round defeat. After Walton’s Jets run ended, the Beaver Falls, Pa., native concluded his NFL coaching tenure as the Steelers’ OC in Chuck Noll‘s final two seasons.