Lawrence Taylor: The Game Changer
In the 1981 NFL Draft, the New York Giants, who had the No. 2 overall draft pick that year, were beside themselves with joy when the Saints used the first overall pick in the draft to select running back George Rogers.
That cleared the way for the Giants to select a defensive end out of North Carolina by the name of Lawrence Taylor, who not only had a Hall of Fame career during his tenure with the Giants (1981-93) but who also revolutionized the game of football and changed the way the linebacker position was played.
“Lawrence Taylor transformed the outside linebacker position from read-and-react…to attack mode. His strength and speed factored in with his aggressive mentality, which made him special," said New York Times best selling author Randy Williams, author of America's Game: The NFL at 100.
Taylor helped the Giants capture their first two Super Bowl titles in franchise history in 1986 and 1990. He also earned league MVP in 1986, becoming only the second defensive player ever to win the award.
Once sacks became an official statistic in 1982, Taylor would make an appearance at the top of the leaderboard. He led the league in sacks in 1986 as part of an effort that helped that Giants defense, affectionately known at the time as the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, gain its reputation as one of the best defenses of all time.
Before becoming general manager of the Giants, Ernie Accorsi served as an assistant in the Giants front office to then-general manager George Young, who selected Taylor in the draft.
Besides his stats, Taylor's remarkable talents forced opposing offensive coordinators to re-think how they played against him and come up with new ways to block him.
Former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, an NFL historian who worked under Young, noted that left tackles had to line up on an angle against Taylor, a practice that wasn't as prominent after Taylor retired from the game.
Williams noted that Washington head coach Joe Gibbs, whose team used to engage in some battle royales against the Giants in the 1980s, actually used to game plan around Taylor, coming up with a new formation which included an extra tight end in the hopes of slowing Taylor down.
It didn't always work. Taylor, who not only dominated Washington but also had his way with the rest of the league, would go on to become the league MVP, a two-time Super Bowl champion, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, nine-time first-team All-Pro, and a 10-time Pro Bowler.
He concluded his career with 132.5 sacks not including the 9.5 from his rookie year before sacks were officially counted as a statistic. He also had 1,089 tackles, 33 forced fumbles, and nine interceptions to further solidify his immortality in Giants franchise history, his No. 56 jersey retired.
Taylor is a member of the Giants Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2019, he landed on the NFL’s Top 100 list ranking as the 17th best player of all-time.