Last week was dark for Miami Dolphins fans – at least for those who subscribe to the view that fans should always root against division rivals, rather than thinking that the success of division opponents reflects well on other teams in the division. The New England Patriots won a fifth Super Bowl, so Fins supporters are understandably glum. However, the silver lining for Dolphins fans is that long time Dolphin great, Jason Taylor, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As a bonus, the leader of the five title-winning Patriots teams gave arguably the most resounding stamp of approval.
Tom Brady said of Jason Taylor’s Hall of Fame election, “The games against Jason are some of my most (well, maybe least) memorable. He is one of the greatest opponents I’ve ever faced, having had the “pleasure” of looking across the line and seeing him on the opposite side of the ball, not once, but twice each season for a decade. While I entered the league with a healthy respect for Jason and the incredibly talented Miami defense he led, my admiration for him as a player and a person only continued to grow with each play, each game, each season.”
Jason Taylor is one of the players that transcends sports. His charitable work earned him the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2008. His vigorous support of the Dolphins franchise and the fan-base is also unparalleled. He continues to make appearances at Dolphins practices to lend extra coaching advice to current players. Not many Dolphins fans have forgotten the moment he ripped a Dallas Cowboys logo off the Dolphins home field end zone during a game, or the manner in which he was carried off the field to cheers after his last game.
When Taylor retired, he was sixth on the all-time NFL sack list. In addition, the thing Taylor had over the few players in front of him is that not only did he produce sacks, at times he was a one-man offense. His six fumble returns for touchdowns are an NFL record. Taylor was also good for producing extra offensive drives, forcing a record-tying 29 fumble recoveries to be exact.
Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden said of Taylor, “Some guys might get the sack, but not the strip. But he was so adept at making plays that when the opportunity presented itself, he didn’t miss very often. He could turn a basic play that might just be a tackle for a loss into a touchdown for the defense. He was one of those guys. He delivered the extra and above of the guys from my era.”
Jason Taylor’s election is somewhat unique in that he represents many great defensive players that formed record setting defensive teams but who, for lack of championship titles, will never see due respect.
Giving credit to his teammates, Taylor said, “My bust is going to be in Canton, but Sam Madison, Dan Marino, Pat Surtain, Zach Thomas, Richmond Webb another guy that should be in Canton, Tim Bowens, Daryl Gardner, Adewale Ogunleye, I mean the list goes on of guys who are all a piece of that bust as well, because without them, there is no me.”
Taylor was a part of defenses that pitched multiple shutouts and nearly set the all-time record for points allowed. He was part of defensive lines that contributed to the iconic “no-fly-zone” secondary. He was also one half of perhaps the most under-rated defensive dynamic duos in NFL history with Zach Thomas, who is also Taylor’s in-law.
On Zach Thomas, Taylor explained, “He made everyone around him play better. He’s one of those guys who never got the respect he deserved, or the attention he deserved. To me, is he a hall of famer? Absolutely…Richmond Webb and Zach Thomas, to me, are two Hall of Famers. Whether their bust is in Canton or not, their bust is in there with me.”
It is notable that Taylor made his career from humble beginnings from a football perspective. He did not play from a young age and spent his college career at Akron a relatively small school not known for its competitive stature in football.
“Coming out of Akron, I had 25 bucks in my pocket and probably owed somebody 10 bucks, so I was down to 15,” Taylor joked.
After years of hard work, Taylor has reached the pinnacle of football honors. He felt that his numbers and game-changing plays would eventually get him to the Hall of Fame, but not as a first ballot inductee. He described the experience as genuinely surprising, even for players who know they are a lock.
Taylor lamented, “We all knew L.T. (running back Ladainian Tomlinson) was going to go in. He was a given, and he still had that look of awe on his face. It’s a huge moment.”
Is it important to mention that Taylor spent a year playing for Washington and two years playing for New York.
Taylor addressed that, saying, “Even when I played for the Jets and for Washington this (Miami) was always home.”
He also named the last game of his career, a 19-17 defeat of the Jets in which he contributed to several key plays, as one of his five favorite career moments.
Taylor thanked Dan Marino whom he considers a friend and mentor. Taylor said he did not consider himself to be on the level of Dan Marino, but what Marino was for the Dolphins teams of the 1980s and 1990s, Taylor became for the Dolphins teams of the 2000s. That is a leader, the face of the franchise, and the most consistently elite player over a 10 year span and beyond. He is a player that an entire generation of Miami fans will remember and point to as the high point of their early days as fans, and now he is a player that future generations of NFL fans will hear about thanks to his place in Canton.