FREDDY! FREDDY! FREDDY!
Chants of Fred Taylor's name could be heard ringing throughout Alltel Stadium from the late 90's to the late 00's.
Fred Taylor was drafted by the Jaguars with the 9th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. He played for the Jaguars for 11 seasons and retired as the most productive player in team history.
Fred Taylor never became the household name around the country that he so deserved to be, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you're not a die hard football fan or from Jacksonville, you probably don't know the name Fred Taylor. He played in the smallest media market in the NFL (save Green Bay) and played during perhaps the greatest era for running back production in NFL history. But you shouldn't hold that against him. No, I'm here to tell you that Fred Taylor has earned his way into the Hall of Fame and deserves the most prestigious award that can be bestowed upon a former professional football player: A gold jacket, and a bust in Canton, Ohio, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
There are many detractors when it comes to the question of whether or not Fred Taylor should make it into the Hall.
"He only made 1 Pro Bowl"
"He was never the best running back in the league"
"He got injured too often early"
"He's not a household name"
All reasons that naysayers will give you when they try to persuade you that Taylor isn't HoF material. But the truth is quite the contrary.
Don't just take my word for it.
Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest middle linebacker of all time, sure thought so. He had this to say about the Jaguars all time leading rusher:
Fred is one of those [players] you don’t really look forward to playing, because he’s a total back to me . . . Barring injury, he's one of the greatest talents we’ve ever seen touch a football. You kind of put him in that same category -- I don’t want to go too far -- but like a Bo Jackson, going through the injury, playing year-in and year-out. But what Fred can do with a football in his hand, it’s special.
Lewis isn't the only Hall of Famer to sing Taylor's praises. Another future Hall of Fame defender, and perhaps the most electric safety of his era, Troy Polamalu claimed that Fred was the best back he'd ever seen.
Fred Taylor is probably the best back I've seen in the NFL
Many times Jim Brown, who is considered by many to be THE greatest runner of all time, has talked about his affinity for the former Jaguars runner. He recounted conversations that he and another Hall of Fame runner had about Fred:
Marcus Allen and I used to talk about a running back that no one else used to talk about out of Jacksonville, Fred Taylor. And Fred is cold-blooded and nobody generally talks about this guy. You can't catch him. He's got all the natural moves. He just got hurt a lot. So those of us who had the keen eye knew that Fred was one of the greatest running backs that I've seen in a long time
Taylor certainly has a lot of support from the playing community, but the opinions of former NFL greats shouldn't be the only deciding factor when it comes to HoF merit. If you simply break down the numbers, they indicate a Hall of Fame level player. Keep in mind that there are over 45 running backs in the Hall of Fame, 32 of which are from the modern era.
Fred Taylor's 11,694 rushing yards comes in at 17th all time, putting him in front of greats like OJ Simpson, Earl Campbell, John Riggins, Eddie George, Shawn Alexander, and many more.
He averaged 4.6 yards per carry for his career. That leaves him tied for 27th all time and in front of NFL legends and Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Jerome Bettis, Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, and many more.
Fred Taylor had 8 career touchdowns of 50 yards or more, which has him tied for fifth all time amongst running backs.
Freddy T has the 3rd most consecutive games with 100 yards rushing. During the 2000 season Taylor ran for 100 yards in every game from week 4 through week 12. During that epic nine week span Taylor rushed the ball for 1,212 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and crossing the goal line 13 times. His 9 consecutive games with 100 yards rushing trails only Barry Sanders and Marcus Allen all time.
As a rookie in 1997 he scored 17 TDs while splitting time with James Stewart. Taylor is tied for 3rd most touchdowns by a rookie in NFL history.
Taylor has the 37th most rushing TDs of all time with 66. He added another 8 touchdowns as a receiver.
Fred holds the record for the longest run in NFL Playoff history. He scampered for 90 yards against the Dolphins in the 2000 Wild Card Round in what was and still is the longest run to ever occur in the playoffs.
Taylor certainly has the individual stats -- many of which compare favorably to running backs already enshrined in Canton. But does Fred stand out amongst his contemporaries? Amongst the greatest era for running backs in NFL history?
The answer is a resounding yes.
During Fred's time in the NFL from 1998-2010 he was one of the most productive rushers. In fact, he was only out shined by LaDanian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James. Tomlinson is already in the HoF after perhaps the most productive career of any RB in NFL history and EDGE has already made it to the Finals for the Hall. During his 13 year career, Taylor out rushed legends like Shawn Alexander, Brian Westbrook, Terrell Davis, Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis, Eddie George, and many, many more. In 2000 Fred had THE highest yards per game on the ground of any player in the NFL (107 YPG), yet he was somehow left out of the Pro Bowl.
Fred might have been overshadowed by his contemporaries when it came to media praise, but on the field, no-one did it better.
Switching gears, another key factor when it comes to Hall of Fame credentials is what players were able to do for their teams, and no-one has had a bigger impact on the Jaguars win-loss column than Freddy. When he suited up for the Jaguars the team won 54% of their games - a number that would give the Jaguars the 6th best franchise winning percentage in all of football. Without Fred on the field the Jaguars would drop to a lowly 37% in terms of winning. That number would leave them by far the worst franchise in the NFL.
Some will argue he only did that with great players around him. Certainly, Fred was helped by some of the excellent offensive lines he ran behind, but Fred performed at the highest level over two different eras - two different regimes for the Jaguars and was still able to carry the team at times throughout his career, especially when the team needed it most. He holds the Jaguars franchise records for career rushing yards, yards per carry (of players who qualify), rushing yards per game, and attempts. Fred Taylor played in seven playoff games for the Jaguars and averaged 87 yards per game in the playoffs while with the team. Had he not made it to playoffs with the Pats in 2009, where he only rushed the ball twice, Taylor would have the 8th best average rushing yards per game in playoff history.
A player of his caliber obviously had some memorable individual performances.
As a rookie against the soon to be legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense Taylor rushed for 128 yards and 3 TDs while average 6.4 yards per carry.
Just one year later, in the same game against the Dolphins that he set the all time playoff record for the longest run, Taylor scored 2 times on his way to 174 total yards - all while averaging over 7 yards per carry.
During the 2000 season, in the midst of Taylor's legendary streak of consecutive 100 yard games, he had perhaps the best game of his career on the road against the Jaguars biggest rival at the time, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Taylor ran the ball 30 times for 234 yards, scored four touchdowns, and averaged 7.8 yards per carry. Two games later he piled on 181 more yards against the Browns while crossing the goal line three times.
Taylor likely won't garner Hall of Fame attention for some time -- maybe never. But don't for one second believe that he doesn't deserve the Hall. He's a player that is viewed by other elite players, both from his era and others, as perhaps the best to do it at his position during his time in the NFL. He has the statistical strength to stand up to most players already inducted into the Hall and he meant more to his team than words can express.
Taylor is THE Jaguar.
While his individual stats, his impact on players around the league, and his contribution to the Jaguars all stand out, the one thing that stands out about Fred Taylor's playing career the most was his unique running style.
Taylor was poetry in motion. He embodied the late great Muhammad Ali's old maxim "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee". Fred was 230 lbs and ran a 4.3 forty. He would run through defenders, past them, and around them. His vision and patience are perhaps only matched by the current NFL superstar Le'Veon Bell. Fred had legitimate break away speed, ankle breaking start and stop ability, a beautiful shimmy shake, and true power. Needless to say he was never easy to get on the ground.
His former teammate Tony Boselli is viewed by many as the best offensive tackle of all time and may get into Canton sooner rather than later. Once Tony gets in it COULD open the door for Fred, but it'll be an uphill battle for 28.
I'm here to try and push him up and over that hill.
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