The NFL is one great individual less on it's roster for this season after running back Fred Taylor decided today to hang up his cleats for the last time. For those who thought he left the game back in 2008 when the Jacksonville Jaguars released him, well, you were wrong. He has idled the past couple of seasons with the New England Patriots, being used sparingly in a Belichick offense that may run the ball but really doesn't care much about who is the guy holding the pigskin.
Taylor, Jacksonville's all-time leading rusher with 11,271 yards, will sign a one-day contract with the Jaguars on Friday to retire with the team that drafted him with the 9th pick in the 1998 draft. As well as being a solid rusher, Taylor was also a great advocate for many league issues and he was never one to complain or get out of line after a loss.
Basically, Taylor will be remembered as being a class act all around.
While not as flashy as some of his contemporaries, Taylor steadily worked through numerous injuries to become the face of the Jaguars franchise. For his career, Taylor amassed 11,695 yards on the ground, placing him 15th on the all-time list.
The next question Taylor will have to face down the road is whether or not he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
While his stats lead some to say yes, both the player ahead of him on the all-time list (Thurman Thomas) and the player behind him (John Riggans) are in the Hall, his overall accomplishments leave a lot to be desired. For his career, Taylor appeared in no SuperBowls, won no rushing titles, and only appeared in one pro bowl (in 2007).
Measuring a player solely on the hard facts is usually the tipping point for a bubble player like Taylor. Doing it that way, however, would be a grave disservice to the man who took a fledgling franchise and helped make it into a solid NFL team.
Taylor is more than his numbers and more than his lack of recognition, he is one of the all-time greats and deserves to be honored as such. The NFL becomes a little less for losing Taylor but became a lot more because of having him in it.
His drive and diligence will be missed.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS