Andy Cohen: Saluting JT's Remarkable Career

Posted Dec 28, 2011

It will never again be quite the same. Not without Jason Taylor out there. Not without tall, lanky No. 99 honing in on quarterbacks, doing that wonderfully unique sack celebration and explaining it all so eloquently afterward.

How appropriate that Jason Taylor would play his last game against the New York Jets. Once his hated rival. Then his teammates. Finally, now, back to how it was.

A remarkable career has come to an end. Remarkable in so many ways. Is he the best defensive player this franchise has seen? You could certainly make that case, couldn’t you?

Early on, back in the 70’s, there was linebacker Nick Buoniconti and safeties Jake Scott and Dick Anderson. No Names who became Big Names. Then there were the Killer B’s, a pretty good group sharing one initial. Bob Baumhower was an awfully good nose tackle and Doug Betters was a special defensive end, who had one unreal season in particular. Linebacker A.J. Duhe has to be in the conversation as well as Taylor’s brother-in-law Zach Thomas, one of my all-time favorites.

But if you want my vote, it isn’t close. Jason Taylor is to the Dolphins defense what Dan Marino was to the offense: the best it has ever seen. No disrespect to the previously mentioned players, but Taylor’s consistency, big-play ability and uncanny knack of finding the quarterback simply sets him apart from the rest.

As much as you hate to see it end, Taylor’s timing seems right on. He is 37 years old, a dinosaur for a lineman, especially for one who is more speed and effort than muscle and bulk. He is relatively healthy and is entering the Jets’ game with a pretty good seven sack season in his pocket. So he hasn’t stayed too long and he’s leaving with his body and mind in one piece. All of that is so important.

Sure, another season might have meant passing others on the all-time sack list. But being sixth all-time heading into the Jets game, with 139.5 sacks on his resume, isn’t exactly something to scoff at. Besides, only a few weeks ago Taylor passed Richard Dent and John Randle, tied at 137.5, on that all-time sack list.

This is where we mention that Randle and Dent are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This is where we also mention that five years from now, when Taylor becomes eligible, he deserves serious consideration as a first-year inductee. Is he lock? Very few are. But when you look at Taylor’s credentials, when you consider he was once NFL Man of the Year, when you think about his presence and his class and the way he sets such a positive example for so many others, how could he not be a Hall of Famer?

How could he not?

It is time to salute Jason Taylor, time to thank him for his many seasons with this franchise, for all those sacks and big plays and moments that truly defined the difference between winning and losing. There has never been a Dolphins player quite like No. 99 and there may never be another one again.

I remember when he first came into the league, how he was supposed to be undersized for a defensive lineman, how many questioned whether a player from a small college like Akron deserved to be taken in the third round. Any doubters now?

I remember Jimmy Johnson looking at Taylor on the practice field and whispering loud enough for everyone to hear: “He’s going to make a lot of plays for us.”

How right Johnson was.

The thing that makes Jason Taylor so unique and so special is his completeness. Not only is he a great player, but he is an unquestionable leader, a giant in the community, and in the lives of so many children with the Jason Taylor Foundation, and as good a locker room talker, and spokesman for his teammates, as this writer has ever covered.

But it is on the field where Taylor will be remembered most, his relentless style, the way he celebrates after a sack, the times he has sacked a quarterback, forced a fumble and scored a touchdown on the same play, that Michael Jordan type pose as he races into the end zone.

Those instincts. Those reactions. That burst around a helpless left tackle. That finishing kick to the quarterback. An exceptional player in so many ways.

But Jason Taylor isn’t going away. He is all South Florida. Probably always will be. His foundation will flourish here, his kids will grow up here. He will lead and others will follow.

The season is ending. Tough decisions await. New coaches will be hired. A young quarterback may very well be drafted. The winds of change blow hard in South Florida. It’s a good time for Jason Taylor to say goodbye, time for a remarkable run to end.

But it will never quite be the same. What a player. What a person. What a career. So special, so powerful, in so many ways.
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