Jason Taylor Retiring: Is Dolphins LB a Hall of Famer?

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaContributor IIDecember 28, 2011

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 18: Defensive end Jason Taylor #99 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates a sack against the Houston Texans at Sun Life Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Sunday afternoon, Jason Taylor will play his final NFL game. 

It's fitting that Taylor's final game will be Jets vs. Dolphins. Taylor has played for both teams, and in his prime with Miami helped to ignite the rivalry even further. 

During his 15 seasons in the NFL, Jason Taylor collected 139.5 sacks, which puts him at sixth all-time. The five names ahead of him? All Hall of Famers (Bruce Smith, Reggie White), two guys who should be in (Kevin Greene, Chris Doleman), and one guy who will reach the Hall of Fame (Michael Strahan). 

But is Jason Taylor a future Hall of Famer? 

Taylor doesn't just have the sack numbers to back it up, but also a plethora of other great numbers. Taylor lead the NFL in sacks in 2002, but also holds the career record for fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns (he currently has six), and is second all-time in fumble recovery yards. 

Taylor also has three interceptions returned for touchdowns, which is impressive when you consider that he's only been a linebacker in his last three seasons. The majority of his career he was a defensive end. 

Pro Bowls? Try six Pro Bowl appearances. Between 2000 and 2007, he only missed the Pro Bowl once. During that stretch, Taylor was First-Team All-Pro three times and in 2006 was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. 

According to profootballreference.com (which has provided most of the stats I'm giving you), Jason Taylor's career matches up with Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers such as Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan, and John Randle. In fact with only two sacks on Sunday, Taylor would move past Strahan onto fifth on the all-time sack list. 

Could this picture have two hall of famers in it?
Could this picture have two hall of famers in it?Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The only beef one could have with Taylor's career is postseason success. In Taylor's 15 years, he's only made the postseason six times, with five of those being in the first five years Taylor played. He only made the conference championship game once (last season with the Jets) and his team was one-and-done in two of his playoff appearances (1997, his rookie year, and 2001). 

Taylor has never won a Super Bowl, and to many people, including JT himself, that's a stain on his career. Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan can at least point to their Super Bowl rings on their resume when they're eligible for the Hall (both are eligible for induction next season). 

Taylor's comparisons with Sapp and Strahan could wind up hurting his cause. While he does have more sacks and better overall numbers than Sapp (and possibly Strahan after Sunday's game against the Jets), he was never looked at the same way that those two were. Sapp and Strahan were at times dominant, with Strahan holding the single season record for sacks and Sapp was always looked at as one of the most dominant defensive forces in the NFL while he was with the Buccaneers. While Taylor was always looked at as being good, sometimes great, he was never considered a dominant force on some great Dolphins defenses in the late-90's and early 2000's. 

Instead Taylor was somewhat looked at as a cog to a system that also included at times Zach Thomas and Trace Armstrong. This same Dolphins defense had a secondary led by Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison, who no doubt could make the job of those on the front seven easier with their suffocating coverage of wide receivers. 

The best measuring stick to judge whether Taylor will be a Hall of Fame player or not will actually come in the next few years when they make a decision on Chris Doleman and Kevin Greene. Both players have numbers and accolades comparable to Taylor and rank ahead of JT in terms of sacks. However, they still haven't received their call from Canton. Both are on the ballot as of now, but still have to go through the reduction vote (which will be released early next month) and if they make it past the reduction vote will be voted on on February 4th. If either one of those players gets in, expect Taylor to get in too. Maybe not in 2018, his first season of eligibility, but in due time.

Jason Taylor had a great career with the Dolphins, Redskins and Jets, and at least in Dolphins history, will go down as one of the best defensive players to wear aqua and orange. Next season expect Taylor and his brother-in-law Zack Thomas to enter Miami's ring of honor and quite possibly expect no one in Dolphins history to ever don the number 99 ever again. 

But as a Hall of Famer? That's questionable. I say yes, but I'm a Miami Dolphins fan who even watched the dreadful Dancing With The Stars just because he was on it. I'm not exactly the most impartial observer in this case. 

What matters is the voters down in Canton. How will they see Taylor's career. 

We shall see in about five years.