MIAMI GARDENS, Fl. -- Some say the second-best player to ever wear a Miami Dolphins uniform hung 'em up for good after Sunday's 19-17 season-ending victory against the New York Jets. You might have recognized him. He was the guy being carried off the field at Sun Life Stadium by his teammates.
"I don't deserve it," said linebacker Jason Taylor, who rode off the field on the shoulders of nosetackle Paul Soliai and linebacker Kevin Burnett.
"Don Shula deserves to be carried off this field. Dan Marino does. Zach Thomas deserves to be carried off this field...I told them to put me down three or four times, but they wouldn't do it."
But even with all of the hoopla and good vibes surrounding Sunday's farewell, it's tough to give Taylor, the face of the franchise for much of his career, more credit than some of the Dolphins' old-timers. After all, this game is about winning, and Taylor, even though he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, never won.
On Sunday, he called it his biggest regret, that he wasn't able to win a Super Bowl for the fans in Miami.
Taylor, who ranks sixth on the NFL's all-time sacks list (139.5), is as classy as they come, both on the field and off. He's been named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and the NFL's Man of the Year (for his charitable work). He's appeared on the hit TV show "Dancing With The Stars," as well as the children's show, Sesame Street. He was voted among People Magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People" in 2008.
And throughout his 15-year career 13 of those with the Dolphins, and one each with Washington and the New York Jets -- he virtually revolutionized the defensive end position.
At 6-foot-6 and a slender 245 pounds, Taylor, a third-round pick out of Akron in 1997, used his relentless attitude and high skill level to out-duel 300-pound tackles on a regular basis. He has the NFL record with six fumble returns for touchdowns. He has the franchise record with nine touchdowns by a defensive player.
Still, he's not the No. 2 player in Dolphins history. And there's no shame in that.
There's no debate about the No. 1 Dolphins' all-time player. It's quarterback Dan Marino.
But No. 2 is where things get murky. With a proud history that includes Hall of Famers such as running back Larry Csonka, quarterback Bob Griese, centers Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson, and guard Larry Little, all of whom were Super Bowl champions, it's hard to put Taylor as second-best.
Taylor's impact on the game was as obvious Sunday, at 37 years old, as ever. He drew three false start penalties by the Jets, was a couple of inches from sacking Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on one play, and almost added a NFL-record seventh fumble recovery for a 20-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. But it was ruled the ball carrier, guard Matt Slauson, who caught a deflected pass, was down by contact. No matter. Taylor looked goofy trying to scoop up the ball on the run, even allowing it to slip from his grip at one point and bounce freely another five or 10 yards down the field before he re-gained control.
"I fumbled the ball, may have looked a little silly," Taylor said smiling. "...It would have been cool if it counted. It was a great moment anyway."
Taylor's Dolphins teams never quite had enough. From 1998-2001, the Dolphins averaged 10 wins per season. But they only won two playoff games. Taylor won that many playoff games last season with the Jets. And he got to the AFC championship game, something he never did with Miami.
It's not Taylor's fault his Dolphins teams could never get it done. He got it done. And he did it as well as some of the best in the history of the NFL. In the eight-year period from 2000-2007, Taylor averaged 12.5 sacks per season, highlighted by his career-best 18.5 sacks in 2002.
Taylor won't end up No. 2 on the Dolphins' all-time list. But most likely he'll end up in the Hall of Fame.