A few players have come along that have made coaches change the way the game of football is played. Lawerence Taylor was one of them.
Where it Began
With the second overall pick in 1981 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, North Carolina University.
Most thought Taylor would be the first pick, but that designation went to Heisman Trophy winner, George Rodgers. As time passed, New Orleans and Bum Phillips would realize the error they had made.
To set the record straight, Taylor was not excited to go to New York. He wanted to be a Cowboy. Taylor did what was expected of him and said all the things he was supposed to say. Taylor was to be a Giant and a true GIANT he was.
Lawrence Taylor came out of college with all the intangibles. Size, speed, strength, quickness, and a “nasty side”. Add to all of those his great football IQ, and you have yourself a star player. It took the Giants’ coaching staff all of only one practice to realize he was the best football player on their entire team.
In 1981 Taylor tallied 9.5 sacks and was voted both NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He would also be voted All-Pro for the first time. Opposing offenses had to account for “LT” on every play. He had the ability to take over a football game.
How Opponents Reacted to Taylor
The linebacker position until then had been played primarily as a read and react position. Taylor brought aggression, attack, intimidation, and fear. The quarterback sack became his calling card and quarterbacks around the NFL hated to play Taylor and the Giants. Bill Parcells was the Defensive Coordinator and he used Taylor’s skills to wreak havoc.
“Lawerence Taylor definitely has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen. He’s changed the way the defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebacker is played, and the way offenses block linebackers.” – John Madden
It was Taylor’s presence and unpredictability that forced Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs to invent the two Tight End “H” back-formation. It didn’t always work though.
In a Monday Night game against the Redskins, Taylor looped around the offensive line and then onto quarterback Joe Theisman’s blindside for the sack. In doing so, he would compound fracture Theisman’s leg. Taylor then jumped up and signaled the Redskins sideline for a trainer. To this day, Taylor still has never watched a replay of that play. Theisman would never play again. Of all the sacks and tackles in his career, that play is arguably Taylor’s most memorable. It was not a dirty play or a cheap shot. He was just playing the game the only way he knew how.
Lawerence Taylor’s Legacy
“LT” was the prototype to the linebackers today. Every linebacker compared to Taylor. Unless you had seen him in person at a game, you just didn’t realize how fast he was. His quickness at the time of the snap was unreal. Every game had Taylor blowing by tackles before the offensive lineman had a chance to gather themselves.
Taylor went on to retire in 1993. He totaled 132.5 sacks, 1,089 tackles, and 9 interceptions. His list of achievements will be hard to duplicate.
Two Super Bowl titles, 10 first-team All-Pro selections, Two second-team All-Pro selections, Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 1981 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, 75th Anniversary All-Time team selection, 1980 All-Decade team, 1985 NFL Player of the Year, Bert Bell Award winner, NFL sacks leader (1985), enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, enshrined to Giants Ring of Honor with his #56 jersey retired.
Current Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick compared Bears linebacker Kahlil Mack to Lawerence Taylor. His response? “Kahlil Mack is not even close”.