Joe Walton, former Jets coach and Giants TE, dead at 85

Former Jets coach Joe Walton has died at the age of 85, Robert Morris University announced on Sunday.

Walton led the Jets from 1983-89, compiling a record of 53-57-1 and taking the team to the playoffs twice. He is second in all-time coaching wins in franchise history. Walton became the head coach of the Jets after serving as the team’s offensive coordinator for two years under Walt Michaels.

Walton replaced Michaels in 1983 and oversaw a high-powered Jets offense with quarterback Ken O’Brien, wide receivers Wesley Walker and Al Toon, running back Freeman McNeil and tight end Mickey Shuler. That group helped the Jets go 11-5 in 1985 and 10-6 in 1986, making the playoffs in both years.

Joe Walton, former Jets coach and Giants TE, dead at 85
Former Jets coach Joe Walton, at Hofstra in 1986, died at the age of 85 on Sunday.

The Jets faded after that and Walton became unpopular with the fan base, which led to “Joe Must Go” chants at Giants Stadium late in his tenure. Walton was fired after a 4-12 season in 1989.

Walton, who was born in Beaver Falls, Pa., returned to his home area as the offensive coordinator of the Steelers in 1990-91 before starting up a football program at Robert Morris, where he served as head coach from 1994-2013. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2013 and the football stadium there was named for him.

Walton was an All-American at Pitt in 1955 and 1956 as a split end before playing in the NFL from 1957-64. He was a second-round pick by Washington and played for them (1957-60) and the Giants (1961-64). He had 178 catches, 2,628 yards and 28 touchdowns.

When he finished playing, Walton became a scout and wide receivers coach for the Giants before becoming the running backs coach with Washington in 1974. He ascended to offensive coordinator there, overseeing the development of quarterback Joe Theismann before joining Michaels’ staff in 1981.