Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 10/21/11
Jason Taylor deserves better. For all that he has given the Miami Dolphins -- being the face of the franchise for most of the past decade, setting defensive records and playing more games in aqua-and-orange than all but two others -- Taylor's career is worthy of a happy ending. Riding off with the Lombardi Trophy in hand like the retiring John Elway did after winning MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXIII is asking too much. But a decent year and a few memorable moments along the way doesn't sound like an unreasonable request of the football gods. Unfortunately, it was. What Taylor admits is likely his final NFL season is being spent on one of the league's three winless clubs. Miami (0-5) has slipped into irrelevancy since Taylor was drafted there in 1997. The Dolphins are now reduced to desperate promotional gimmicks to sell tickets like honoring the 2008 University of Florida national championship squad -- and, by extension, Denver's new starting quarterback Tim Tebow -- at Sunday's home game against the Broncos. Taylor's own son is even ribbing him, calling his unbeaten flag-football team the "opposite Dolphins." But to assume that Taylor has any regrets about returning to Miami for one last hurrah or is already resigned to losing would stand opposite of everything he believes in. Taylor continues to try and rally demoralized teammates, leading by example and encouragement while admitting his own play at outside linebacker hasn't been up to par. He bristles at mention of the "Suck for Luck" campaign some Dolphins fans want the franchise to embark upon for a shot at Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the draft's No. 1 pick. He truly believes the 2011 Dolphins can rally and are a far better team than their record reflects. Taylor still has this strong emotional investment in the Dolphins despite the franchise turning its back on him twice when carpetbagger Bill Parcells ran the show. He has the same attachment to South Florida, where Taylor plans to continue living and remain prominent in the community long after his playing days end. As he told FOXSports.com following Thursday's practice, "This has become home." Albeit one that needs some football housecleaning. Taylor took 10 seconds to formulate an answer when asked what was the most challenging part of a season that -- barring a miraculous turnaround -- will assuredly cost head coach Tony Sparano his job and result in major changes from both a roster and front-office standpoint. "Unfortunately, I've seen this movie before," said Taylor, referring to Miami's 1-15 campaign in 2007. "The most challenging part is relaying the message of hope, keeping that positive attitude and trying to create one when it's not there. It's tough to believe when you're not getting the results. Sometimes you've got to have faith. We're doing things preventing us from getting that prize right now but it's there. "The '07 team was pretty bad. This team is so much better and more talented. That's been the most disappointing thing." Taylor feels the same about the "Suck for Luck" campaigning that Miami players were peppered with media questions about this past week. "It's ridiculous that we even have to talk about it," said Taylor, his large chocolate-brown eyes flashing anger. "I mean really? You want us to tank a season to get a pick that may or may not pan out in the future? Yeah, the kid is a good player. People talk about him being the next Peyton Manning or John Elway. You never know in this inexact science they call the NFL Draft. But for professional football players to go and lose games to try and secure a pick? You can kiss my ass, quite frankly. "That would never come down from upstairs (management). Tony would never allow that. I think Tony would quit before he would allow that -- and I don't think he quits on anything. I've never quit anything in my life and I would, too." The thought of tanking games to land a quarterback was foreign to spoiled Dolphins fans in 1997 when Taylor first entered the league and Dan Marino was still under center. Although productive in Marino's final three NFL seasons, Taylor admits he was relatively clueless then and making plays largely off athleticism and effort. "I was just running around trying to find the ball," said Taylor, a third-round pick whose breakthrough season came in 2000 with 14.5 sacks. "I wasn't reading blocks. I wasn't looking for anything. I was just going. When I started understanding the game a little more, breaking down film and learning what to anticipate on downs and distances based on personnel, that's when football was great." As dominant a pass-rusher as he was at defensive end, Taylor would have already secured a future spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame had he moved to outside linebacker earlier in his career. When shifted under ex-Dolphins coach Nick Saban in 2005, Taylor's size (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) and speed made him a perfect fit in a 3-4 system. "I could have been a lot better," Taylor lamented with a smile on his face. "Nick Saban said that at the beginning. (Dolphins defensive coordinator) Mike Nolan told me that a week or two ago." Taylor was named the 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Two years later, the Dolphins traded their most popular and accomplished player to Washington. That falls on Parcells, who didn't like Taylor or his desire to pursue interests outside of football, like competing on "Dancing With the Stars." The two buried the hatchet enough for Taylor to return in 2009 following the release from the Redskins he orchestrated by refusing a contract restructuring. But even after a seven-sack season in which he started 15 games, Taylor joined the rival New York Jets in 2010 when Parcells refused to re-sign him. Taylor never wanted to become a member of Gang Green. He didn't want to leave his family in South Florida again. He was willing to take less money to stay with the Dolphins. But he didn't want to stop playing the game he loved, either. Taylor saw first-hand how Marino was pushed into retirement under similar circumstances when Dave Wannstedt became Miami's head coach in 2000. At the time, Taylor told teammate and now brother-in-law Zach Thomas that "no matter how good we end up, if it happens to Danny, we have no shot." "You wish things would be handled differently sometimes. But what you learn is there's not a whole lot of loyalty in professional sports from anybody," Taylor said. "Some people are very loyal. Some to a fault -- they will hang their hat on a player and go down with the ship with that player. That speaks to their character and a lot about the man they are. But this league is full of ... "Some people are shrewd. Some people are cunning. Some are conniving. Some just lie." Taylor didn't let Parcells sour him on South Florida. Taylor remained committed to his charitable foundation (jasontaylorfoundation.com) where he and wife Katina are involved hands-on with helping underprivileged youth. "It was important for us to not only establish our roots as being home but be able to give back and create something that I can pass down," said Taylor, a 37-year-old father of three. "My kids won't grow up the way I grew up -- poor in a single-parent home with a mom struggling to make ends meet. That's great. I worked my ass off so they can have a better life. But there are valuable lessons to be taught from that struggle and mental makeup you have to have to get through that. They'll be able to build that spirit to give back and help." When Parcells left the team in late 2010, the door opened for Taylor's third different Dolphins stint. At this point, Taylor isn't the same caliber of player who entered this year with 132.5 sacks, five All-Pro selections and more returned fumbles for touchdowns (six) than any player in league history. Taylor has four tackles and one sack playing primarily as a backup. "It's tough when you get to a point where you're not producing how you want to or used to," Taylor said. "Mentally it's there but physically it's not happening. But one thing I've always been good at is staying hard on myself and staying patient. It's going to happen at some point this year. I just keep chipping away at it." Taylor wouldn't definitively say he was retiring at season's end. But as the last former Marino teammate left in the league besides Carolina kicker Olindo Mare, Taylor knows that day is coming soon. "It's likely that it is my last year," said Taylor, who will ultimately be weighing business and media opportunities for his post-NFL career. "I hate to think about football mortality, but who knows what's going to happen here organizationally? The end may be forced upon me. Sometimes, maybe it has to be because players are too hard-headed to walk away." Taylor, though, won't be going too far away. And when he takes those final steps in a Dolphins uniform, Taylor can walk tall and proud. Considering the current state of the Dolphins, that's not a bad final chapter to have written.
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