By Ron Borges
Talk of Fame Network
The odds of becoming an NFL Hall of Famer are as long as the odds of being hit by a meteor. The odds of becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer are even longer.
The latter is what former Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor will be up against next month when his career will be one of 18 debated by a panel of 48 voters for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Despite ranking seventh all-time in sacks with 139 ½, the odds for him will be even longer than the norm because only four modern-era defensive ends in NFL history have been first-ballot Hall of Fame selections: Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Gino Marchetti and Deacon Jones.
Might Taylor become the fifth? That is the question, even though it would seem his career production provides all the answers needed.
Of the top seven sack leaders all-time, only two — Smith and White, who happen to rank one and two on the all-time list with 200 and 198 respectively — gained entrance to Canton in their first years of eligibility. Everyone else who did what Taylor did so well for 15 years in the NFL, had to wait.
And, in some cases, wait and wait.
Kevin Greene ranks third on the all-time sack list with 160. but it inexplicably took him nine years to reach Canton, including five times as a finalist. It took Chris Doleman, who is fourth on the list, eight years of eligibility, despite his 150 ½ sacks and long career with the Minnesota Vikings. So, as impressive as Taylor’s career numbers are, he may find it easier to have gotten to all those quarterbacks than it will be to get into one of those mustard colored jackets this summer only Hall of Famers wear.
Taylor’s resume is impeccable. He is a six-time Pro Bowl performer, three-time first team All-Pro and a member of the 1990s all-decade team. He was twice named the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Year and in 2006 was voted Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year when he led the NFL with 13 ½ sacks, forced nine fumbles, returned two interceptions for touchdowns and recovered two fumbles.
Remarkably, that is arguably not his greatest season.
That came four years earlier when Taylor first led the NFL in sacks with 18 ½, forced seven fumbles and recovered two. To say Jason Taylor was a disruptive force is like saying a hurricane is breezy.
“I would go for the sack,’’ Taylor told the Talk of Fame Network recently, “but also the strip.”
Often he got it, and his quickness and athletic ability allowed him to do something more with those strip sacks beyond jarring the quarterback and disrupting his offense. Often times, Taylor directly turned them into points.
In fact, Taylor set an NFL record that still stands by scoring nine non-offensive touchdowns during his career, six by fumble returns. The closest Hall-of-Fame competitor has fewer than four.
When he retired, Taylor had forced 46 fumbles, recovered 29 and intercepted eight passes while missing only one game during a 10-year stretch in the prime of his career and only seven games his entire 15 years in the NFL.
When you look at those numbers you realize Taylor was knocking the ball loose an average of 36 per cent of the games he played, a remarkable figure and a strong argument for his inclusion among the greatest players the game has seen.
Will that be enough to join the elite of the elite, the few who can call themselves first-ballot Hall of Famers? The odds are certainly against him. But when did that bother the skinny kid from Akron who arrived in the NFL as a third-round draft choice with a lot to learn and a body that didn’t quite seem to fit the mold of an NFL pass rusher and who left 15 years later as one of the most disruptive forces in the game’s history?
(Jason Taylor photos courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)