The End of an Era: Changes in the NFL

The SportmeistersAnalyst IFebruary 25, 2009

by Derek of The Sportmeisters

Some things never change, but...some things do. The NFL, for example, is one of those things that do change. In the past week and a half, three NFL mainstays have been released from the team that they have played their entire careers with.

The Jacksonville Jaguars released RB Fred Taylor last week. The Indianapolis Colts released WR Marvin Harrison yesterday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released LB Derrick Brooks today.

I remember watching these guys when I was a kid and, back then, you never thought that this kind of thing could happen. At that time, Taylor and Harrison were just coming into their own, and Brooks had established himself as a future star.

I’m going to review each players career and where they may be going next year, as each of them has indicated that they wants to resume playing.

Fred Taylor came into the NFL in 1998 and started his career with 1223 Yards Rushing, 421 Yards Receiving, and a combined 17 Touchdowns. He started having injury problems in 1999 and only had 732 Yards Rushing, 83 yards Receiving, and six Touchdowns in 10 games, but rebounded in 2000 with 1399 Yards Rushing, 240 Yards Receiving, and a combined 14 Touchdowns, while only playing in 13 games.

Again, injuries claimed his 2001 season, playing in only 2 games.

However, in 2002 and 2003, he was able to stay healthy and play in all 16 games and rewarded Jacksonville with seasons of 1314 Yards with 8 Touchdowns and 1572 Yards with seven Touchdowns.

After 2003, he was never able to stay healthy enough to play in all 16 games, playing in 14, 11, 15, 15, and 13. Also affecting his status in Jacksonville was the team’s drafting of RB Maurice Jones-Drew in 2006.

With Jones-Drew coming into his own, you had to start wondering what the team was going to do with the injury-prone Taylor, who was getting up there in age. Last week, Jacksonville answered our question by releasing him.

Taylor has met with Buffalo and is scheduled to meet with New England today. Wherever he ends up, Taylor will definitely be a backup, used in a Running Back by Committee.

Marvin Harrison made his debut in 1996 and had 3 decent years, with 64 Receptions 836 Yards 8 Touchdowns in 1996, 73 Receptions 866 Yards 6 Touchdowns in 1997, and 59 Receptions, 776 Yards, and seven Touchdowns in 12 games in 1998.

You have to figure that if he stayed healthy in 1998, with the arrival of QB Peyton Manning, he would have put up better numbers, especially with the numbers he put up every year after that.

Manning and Harrison combined for an NFL record 112 Touchdowns, making them the NFL’s most prolific QB-WR tandem in history. Overall, Harrison owns the record for most Receptions in a season, with his 143 in 2002, is 2nd on the NFL’s All-Time Receptions list with 1102, 5th in Receiving Touchdowns with 128, and 4th in Receiving Yardage with 14580 Yards.

At age 37, he is slowing down and has only 80 Receptions for 883 Yards and six Touchdowns in 20 games over the past two seasons. So far, there have been three teams that have rumored to be interested. Chicago, Tennessee, and Philadelphia are the rumored teams, but we will have to see where he ends up in 2009.

Derrick Brooks came out of Florida State (Sportmeister Ryan’s Alma Mater) in 1995 and immediately made an impact with 78 Tackles, 1 Sack, and 2 Forced Fumbles. After that season, he never went another year with less than 100 Tackles, until the 2008 season.

His best year came in 1999, when he had 153 Tackles, 18 Passes Defended, 2 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, and four Interceptions. His 2008 season was a disappointment, only having 73 Tackles, 1 Forced Fumble, and 1 Interception.

He is a sure-fire Hall-Of-Famer and it is a major surprise that Tampa Bay would release an icon like him. The only question now is whether he will resume his career at age 36, or call it quits, not wanting to play for another team.

As we age, it's interesting to see the players we watched in their prime so slowly fade to obscurity of their career, as younger, more athletic players take their positions. Sometimes it's just a shame to see the end of a players era.