Fred Taylor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor runs away fron an attempted tackle by Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Tim Anderson (77) during a game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York on November 26, 2006. Buffalo won the game 27-24. (Photo by Mark Konezny/NFLPhotoLibrary)

This year, Denver Bronco Terrell Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even though his career was cut short due to injury, it’s easy to see why he got in. In the four years he was healthy, he averaged 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns per season. If it hadn’t been for Davis, John Elway would’ve retired without a Super Bowl victory. However, the fact remains that he only had 7,607 career yards. What about the backs that rushed for more yards? Frank Gore, Edgerrin James, and Adrian Peterson seem like locks, but what about fringe guys like Fred Taylor?

Fred Taylor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Fred Taylor’s Career Numbers- 14,079 Total Yards, 74 Total Touchdowns.

In his career, Taylor averaged nearly 900 yards a season. That sounds pretty unimpressive on paper, until you look a little further. Fred Taylor amassed 11,695 yards over 13 seasons. In his last two seasons in the league, he was a change of pace back for the New England Patriots, and he missed most of the 2001 season with injuries. So he was only really a starter for 11 years. In those 11 years, he averaged about 1,014 yards per year. This is where it gets interesting.

Because in 2006, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Maurice Jones-Drew. Taylor remained the starter in Jacksonville, but he lost a significant number of carries to his young teammate. Despite that, Taylor still rushed for over 1,000 yards in two of the three seasons they shared a backfield, averaging over five yards per carry both times. If Taylor had received even half of Jones-Drew’s carries at that pace, he would’ve added roughly 800 yards to his total. That doesn’t seem like much until you realize that would’ve put his career yardage total past that of Jim Brown.

The Real Issue

In the past, Fred Taylor’s legacy may have been that while he enjoyed a very good career, it just wasn’t good enough for the Hall of Fame. His teams never won a Super Bowl, he only made the Pro Bowl once, and he was never an All-Pro. He was just a guy that was very good for a very long time. And while Taylor himself might not like that, that’s just the way it was.

Now, it’s hard to say. It’s not Fred Taylor’s fault that the Jaguars were so bad he never won a title. It’s a team game, and many of the sport’s best tailbacks, like Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson, and LaDainian Tomlinson retired without rings. For a quarterback, a ring is a must-have, the same is not true for running backs.

Furthermore, Taylor didn’t get to play in the mystical run scheme that Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak designed. In their system, Davis, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Tatum Bell, Olandis Gary, Reuben Droughns, Alfred Morris, Steve Slaton, and Arian Foster all had 1,000 yards. And those are just backs that played for them as head coaches. As coordinators, the list gets even longer.

Taylor didn’t have a brilliant run scheme or a Hall of Fame quarterback, and he rarely got to keep all the carries to himself. Despite that, he still had a very good career, retiring with more rushing yards than at least 17 other Hall of Famers. In a pre-Terrell Davis in the Hall of Fame world, it would be understandable if he had to wait or never got in at all, but now? It just doesn’t seem fair.
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