Not a surprise, but an ESPN panel has voted former Giants star Lawrence Taylor the greatest edge rusher in NFL history. And the results looked like a rigged election: He picked up 80% of the vote.
Taylor announced himself to the league as a rookie in 1981 with 133 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 8 pass knockdowns, 2 forced fumbles and an interception and won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award. There are many around the league who say Taylor changed the way people thought pass-rushers could be used in a defense. Taylor’s best season came in 1986, when he led the league in sacks (20.5), won MVP and earned his third Defensive Player of the Year award.
Taylor had 132.5 official sacks in his career — his 9.5 in 1981 were unofficial — and more than half of them (76.0) came in a five-season span from 1985 to ’89. He had at least 12.0 sacks in each of those five seasons, the longest streak by any player since individual sacks became official in 1982.
Reggie White has an argument — he finished second with eight votes to Taylor’s 40 (it was a 50-person panel) — but not a great one. Taylor had many flaws off the field, and it remains bizarre how comfortable the Giants are in embracing him in 2022, but you cannot deny his on-field greatness.
Taylor was the only former Giant who received votes as ESPN ranked the greatest player ever at each position. The Jets had three former players, but two of them came with an asterisk.
Ronnie Lott was voted the greatest safety ever, but his two years with Gang Green aren’t the reason why. Ed Reed, the runner-up at safety, had a cup of coffee with the Jets. But Darrelle Revis received several votes at cornerback, and he is a legit Jet.
ESPN’s panel did a strong job on the whole. I would quibble that Joe Greene or Deacon Jones deserve to be the top defensive tackle over Aaron Donald, but that’s splitting hairs.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]