Lawrence Taylor, known simply as LT, played linebacker for the New York Giants for 13 seasons. During that time he played alongside some excellent linebackers, but LT was the greatest. He was a game-changer and the type of player that opposing teams needed to game-plan around.
The list of accolades that Taylor has is amazing. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and in 1986 he was the NFL MVP, the last defensive player to win it. He also helped lead the Giants to two Super Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
He is credited with 132.5 sacks in his career, but in fact, had more. The first year that sacks were an official stat was 1982, his second season in the league. It has been calculated that he had 9.5 sacks in 1981 which would bring his 132.5 up to 142 sacks which would move him from 14th all-time up to 6th.
In 1981, the Giants were playing against the Cardinals and Taylor was supposed to drop into coverage, but instead rushed the quarterback. He sacked Neil Lomax, but when he came to the sidelines coach Bill Parcells told him that he should have been in coverage. Taylor nodded and moved on. Later in the game, the same situation arose and once again Taylor rushed the quarterback, this time causing a fumble besides for getting the sack. Another Giants defender, George Martin picked it up and scored a touchdown. Taylor’s great athleticism allowed him to not be in the proper position and it did not destroy the rest of the team.
Another game that exemplified Taylor’s greatness was a Sunday night game in 1988 against the New Orleans Saints. Taylor suffered from a torn pectoral muscle but it didn’t slow him down as he recorded seven tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Without being hurt, this would have been a signature game for Taylor, how much more so with the injury.
Current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was Taylor’s defensive coordinator in New York. Belichick, who has amazing knowledge and appreciation of the history of the NFL, has said numerous times that Taylor was the best player he’d ever seen. In 2018 when asked to compare Khalil Mack to Taylor, Belichick famously said, “I’m not putting anyone in Lawrence Taylor’s class.”
Taylor was burdened with controversies at points in his playing and post-playing career. He is a player whose athleticism, determination and instinctive approach to the game should be celebrated but as a person, he is not someone to emulate. As we are closing in on the top of this list,