On Friday, Fred Taylor was right back where he started.
Spending his first 11 seasons in Jacksonville, Taylor gained 11,271 yards on the ground, a team record. Furthermore, his 286 career receptions ranks third all-time in the team’s 16-year history.
He spent the past two seasons as a member of the New England Patriots.
Taylor’s career is a tale of contrast. There were the early years where he would amaze while running over and through teams, but would fight injuries that kept him out of action for periods of time. Then there was consistent Taylor, the one who kept churning up yardage toward the end of his time in Jacksonville and made his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2007 when he ran for 1,202 yards.
He has more yards on the ground than Hall of Fame players John Riggins and O.J. Simpson. Whether the University of Florida product that was taken with the ninth pick in the 1998 draft will be invited to Canton when he eligible for induction, we'll have to wait and see.
In 2003, Taylor was at the pinnacle of his career when he amassed 1,572 yards. But Taylor might be most remembered for the 1999 playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. Fighting injury most of the season (where he only played in only 10 games), Taylor took the hand off from quarterback Mark Brunell on the first play from scrimmage and scrambled 90 yards for a touchdown.
The longest touchdown run in playoff history.
At one point, Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown called Taylor the best running back in pro football. It was a goal of Taylor’s to try and reach Brown’s rushing accomplishments. He came up short, however.
In an article on ESPN.com, Taylor said he wanted to thank everyone who was involved in his career. This included people in his home state of Florida, the University of Florida and the Jaguars.
Toward the end of his time with Jacksonville, Taylor was splitting time on the field with Maurice Jones-Drew, the team’s second round selection in 2006 and current starter at the position that Taylor occupied during the team's 1999 AFC Title Game run following the Jags' regular season 14-2 record.
Now, with the retirement of one of the team’s last links to greatness, the debate over whether Taylor is the best Jaguars player ever begins.
The team, noted for a high-powered offense that featured the likes of Taylor, wide receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, quarterback Mark Brunell, and offensive tackle Tony Boselli was one of the great juggernauts of the late 1990s; though, they never got past the title game to reach the Super Bowl. Taylor’s career got stronger as he played longer, playing in 46 consecutive games at one point.
Taylor’s main competition for that title of “Greatest Jaguar of All Time” is Boselli, who works with the Jaguars on ticket sales and promotion for “Team Teal." He is the most recognizable face in the team’s history and while his career was cut short due to injury, some could argue that his play was some of the greatest ever for a man who played one of the premier positions in the NFL.
Taylor shrugged off the “Fragile Fred” moniker from his early days on the field to provide consistency on a team that at times struggled to make the playoffs under then head coach Tom Coughlin, and later under current head coach Jack Del Rio.
He was a great influence in the locker room and in the community.
And while other running backs have come and gone in the NFL, Taylor played longer than most backs—most players at any position, for that matter—do in a lifetime.
Boselli may have garnered more attention, but it was Taylor who helped the team succeed when others on the team could not.
For that reason, not that either he or Boselli belong in Canton, Taylor can be considered the greatest ever to don the teal and black.