The Greatness of Fred Taylor
The recent interview that Fred Taylor gave indicating the end of his Jaguar days may be at hand made me wonder, how good is Fred Taylor? In a historical perspective, where does he rank?
Let’s start with the list of all-time yards gained running the football. Fred Taylor is currently 19th. If he gains 1,100 more yards he will be in the top ten. I know Fred has 1,100 yards left in him, so right off the bat; we are looking at one of the top ten best running backs ever to play the game.
But do total yards tell the whole story? Marcus Allen played 14 years, Ernest Byner played 14 years. A back can get into the top 50 simply by staying in the game long enough. So let’s change the measurement. Let’s evaluate a running back based on how productive they are in delivering 1,000+ yard seasons. Let’s say a running back is an impact player if 70% of the seasons they play they rush for over 1,000 yards. Now how does Fred rank?
This gives a different look. Of the top 50 running backs, only 14 have achieved a 70% total in seasons played compared to seasons rushing over 1,000 yards. Jerome Bettis didn’t do it, Marcus Allen didn’t do it, and Tony Dorsett didn’t do it. In this metric, the greatest running back is Barry Sanders. Every one of his 10 seasons he rushed for more than 1,000 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson is also a historic running back with an unbroken record 8 for 8, Curtis Martin and Clinton Portis missed only one season. Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Eddie George missed two seasons. Of these three, Walter Payton was the most durable, running over 1,000 yards 11 seasons out of 13. Jim Brown, however, broke the top ten all-time in only 118 games, seven seasons out of nine over 1,000 yards. He played in the era of 12 and 14 game seasons. (And to be fair, he had one season of 996 yards and the other for 942 yards) In the next tier are Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson, Fred Taylor, Edgerrin James, and Jamal Lewis. Edgerrin James and Fred Taylor have 7 times over 1,000 for 70% ratings. Eddie George had 7 out of 9 seasons over 1,000. Emmitt Smith has 11 out of 15 seasons over 1,000 yards for a 73% rating and the all time rushing leader. Eric Dickerson has 8 seasons out of 11 over 1,000 yards for a 73% rating and is a top 10 all time running back.
So my personal ranking of the greatest impact running backs are:
1. Jim Brown
2. Barry Sanders
3. Walter Payton
4. Emmitt Smith
5. LaDainian Tomlinson
6. Curtis Martin
7. Eric Dickerson
8. Edgerrin James
9. Clinton Portis
10. Eddie George
11. Fred Taylor
12. OJ Simpson
13. Ricky Waters
14. Jamal Lewis
15. Corry Dillon
OK the obvious question, Fred Taylor better than OJ Simpson? The truth about OJ is that he had 5 seasons out of 11 that were great with one 2,000 yard season. OJ and Fred are about the same in yards gained and in games played. I gave the edge to Fred because he had more seasons over 1,000 yards and will finish with a higher total yards. The truth is Fred Taylor is every bit as good as OJ Simpson was. I saw OJ play, I watch Fred play, I can tell you the breakaway speed and eyes in the back of the head are similar.
So when we watch Fred Taylor play, do we realize we are seeing one of the greats of all time? I don’t know how he can be called “Fragile Freddie” given his production per season and number of seasons at that very high productivity level. I don’t know that we appreciate this level of talent, or that our junior level Offensive Coordinator knows how to use what he has. Part of our problem this year has been talent level in coaching, including you Jack!
Will we ever see another Fred Taylor with the Jacksonville Jaguars when Fred leaves? Consider this, of the top 20 running backs of all time, 16 were taken in the first round, 13 were top 10 picks. Three were second round choices and one was a third round. The greats of all time are at the top of the draft selections. Do you see the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting a running back in the first round in the near future? I don’t. Given that assumption and the history of where great running backs come from, we probably will not see anyone like Fred Taylor in a Jaguar uniform for 15 to 20 years. It will take someone of Tom Coughlin’s drafting ability to spot that level of talent. That eye for talent doesn’t exist in the Jaguar organization today.
Fred, some of us understand and know what you are doing. We have been blessed to see you run. I miss that the most this season. If I could see just one more breakaway run for a touchdown, I will love it. God Bless you Fred, we will miss you.