Lawrence Taylor changed the game, and despite so many attempts by LT wannabes, there will never be another one quite like him.
He was an intimidating combination of strength and speed who wrecked offenses and quarterbacks (ask Joe Theismann). He was voted the second-best player in NFL history by the Daily News 15-member blue ribbon panel right behind Jim Brown.
“It’s pretty cool,” L.T. said by phone Tuesday from Florida when he was informed of the honor. “In this league of so many great players, I wouldn’t think I would be this high. I am really appreciative. That’s an honor with the class of guys who have played in this league. To be considered one of the best, that’s great. Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, those names are icons. To be considered the best is one thing. Two is pretty good.”
And because Brown was a running back, of course, that means the Daily News panel considers Taylor the greatest defensive player in NFL history. “I’m really excited about it,” he said, laughing. “I’m still making news.”
Taylor had his share of problems off the field as a player and in his post-career life, but has been working hard to keep himself out of trouble and rehabilitate his image. The more time he spends on the golf course, it seems, the better off he is.
Taylor was such a dominant pass rusher from his right outside linebacker spot in the Giants’ 3-4 defense it was impossible for running backs to block him. So, he started seeing double-teams with tight ends.
Finally, innovative 49ers coach Bill Walsh assigned an offensive lineman to block LT during his rookie year in 1981. He would have left guard John Ayers swing out and try to catch Taylor coming off the edge.
“He changed — or invented —the rush linebacker position while dominating the opposition,” former Bills, Panthers and Colts GM Bill Polian said.
Soon, it became LT against left tackles. He finished with 132½ sacks in his 13-year career. That does not include the 9½ he recorded as a rookie before sacks were an official statistic.
In the Giants’ first Super Bowl season in 1986, LT became the first defensive player to be named league MVP in 15 years.
“The longer I’ve been around professional football the more convinced I am that you can’t win titles without an exceptional quarterback. To me, Unitas is the gold standard,” former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi said. “The other indispensable ingredient needed for a championship team is a great pass rush. Lawrence Taylor was the best pass rusher I’ve ever seen.”