When Jimmy Johnson became the head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1996, he vowed to do things his way in the same fashion that he did when he led the Dallas Cowboys to a pair of Super Bowl Championships as their head coach in 1992 and 1993. Johnson’s first order of business with the Dolphins was to fix the defense as for a long time Miami’s time was quarterback Dan Marino and 52 other guys. And in 1997, Johnson would use a third round pick on defensive end/outside linebacker Jason Taylor to help to remedy that.
At 6’6″, Taylor had the height to be a successful edge rusher in the National Football League, but at just 244 lbs., he was slightly undersized to deal with the mammoth offensive tackles. However there is no statistical category in place which measures a player’s heart and determination which is something that Taylor was one of the best at.
Along with the likes of middle linebacker Zach Thomas, cornerback Sam Madison, and defensive end Trace Armstrong, Taylor would go on to develop a reputation as a stalwart on the Dolphins during his tenure as Miami typically had one of the top defenses in the National Football League.
By 2000, Taylor began to solidify his reputation around the National Football League as one of the top edge rushers. That season would see Taylor have a breakthrough season as he record 14.5 sacks. And this would not go unnoticed as Taylor would earn his first Pro Bowl selection. In 2002, Taylor would lead the National Football League in sacks with 18.5 while the Dolphins had the fourth ranked defense in the league. In 2006, Taylor would record 13.5 sacks, while also returning two interceptions for touchdowns. Taylor would be named as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year and in the process he became the first Dolphins player since defensive end Doug Betters in 1983 to win the award.
Taylor would continue to put up quality numbers in a Dolphins uniform, but after a falling out with the front office in Miami, he would be traded to the Washington Redskins in 2008. Taylor would only record 3.5 sacks in 13 games for the Redskins and after he sighted the desire to be closer to his family in South Florida, he was released by Washington in order to return to the Dolphins in 2009.
Taylor would sign a one-year deal to return to the Dolphins as he recorded 7 sacks. But in 2010, the allure of competing for a Super Bowl Title would see Taylor join the rival New York Jets. At the age of 36, Taylor was a shell of himself as he only recorded 5 sacks, but his veteran leadership would help the Jets reach the AFC Championship Game for a second consecutive year.
After one season with the Jets, Taylor would return to South Florida for this third and final stint with the Dolphins. Taylor would be used in a reserve role in order to keep him fresh, but he still managed to record 7 sacks on the season, while he also recorded a key tackle in his final game which was subsequently against the Jets who had released him after one season.
When Taylor finished his career, his 139.5 sacks were the sixth most in National Football League history, and his 131 career sacks with the Dolphins are by far tops in the history of that franchise. And aside from being the best pass rusher in the history of the Dolphins, Taylor’s name will live forever in NFL history as he is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It didn’t take Taylor that long to be enshrined as he made it on his first year of eligibility which gives you an idea about the respect that he earned. Taylor was one of the best pass rushers of his era, while he consistently went up against left tackles in the National Football League such as Jonathan Ogden of the Baltimore Ravens, Willie Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Matt Light of the New England Patriots. But the size of these offensive tackles who were all above 300 pounds never fazed the lighter Taylor who went about his business with speed, quickness, and leverage.
So when Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight, it was only fitting that it was Johnson who inducted him. Thomas would have been a logical fit being that he and Taylor are both godfathers to each other’s kids, but it was Johnson who saw something special in him and thus he gave him a chance to succeed in the National Football League.
Taylor is now the tenth Dolphins player or coach inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he is also the first player that attended the University of Akron to be enshrined. And it is also fitting being that only 24 miles separates Akron from Canton.
Little did we know that when Johnson spent a third round pick on Taylor in the 1997 National Football League Draft that we’d see him end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame where he is now immortalized forever, and more than likely his no. 99 will never be worn by another Dolphins player.