The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners

The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners
A review and commentary on the history & lastest events surrounding the 17 time NFC Western Division & 5 -Time World Champion San Francisco 49ers. From 1946 and the All America Football Conference to 2009 and the road to a 6th Super Bowl title - For true fans of the scarlet and gold! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Top Ten All Time - Number 3

Since top ten lists are all the rage these days, the dog days til training camp starts, I thought it was time for one more! Since USA Today is counting down the top 25 players of the last 25 years til camp,(and we will keep you up to date on the Niner notables on that list), I will go one better. Here is number 3 on my list of top ten players of all time, regardless of era or position. And yeah, there might be a 49er or two in here!!

Number 3:

Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants, 1981-93

In 1981, Taylor was drafted by the NFL's New York Giants as the # 2 pick overall. In a poll of NFL General Managers taken before the draft 26 out of the 28 GMs stated that if they had the first selection they would select Taylor. Taylor's NFL regular season debut occurred on September 6, 1981 in a 24–10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The game was relatively non-noteworthy for Taylor except for his picking up a penalty for a late hit on Eagles running back Perry Harrington. Taylor went on to finish his rookie season with 9.5 sacks, and is often considered to have had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history. Taylor was named 1981's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, becoming to date the only rookie to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award. Taylor's second year was cut short by the 1982 NFL strike and the Giants struggled to a 4–5 finish in the abbreviated season. After the season Taylor was again awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Although Taylor recorded 9 sacks and made the All-Pro team for the third consecutive season in 1983, the Giants struggled. The team finished 3–12–1, and Parcells received heavy criticism during the season from the fans and media. Following the season, Taylor was involved in a fight for his services between the New Jersey Generals of the USFL and the Giants. Taylor had been given a $1 million dollar interest-free, 25 year loan by the General's owner Donald Trump on December 14, 1983, with the provision that he would begin playing in the USFL in 1988. Taylor quickly regretted the decision and less than a month later attempted to get out of the agreement. The Giants, who were eager to keep Taylor, took part in attempting to free Taylor from it. The results of this tussle included many considerations but the ultimate result was threefold: 1) Taylor had to return the $1 million dollars to Trump, 2) the Giants were required to pay Trump $750,000 dollars over the next five seasons in order for Trump to release Taylor's rights, and 3) Taylor was given a new 6-year $6.2-million-dollar contract by the Giants.

The Giants record rebounded to 9–7 in 1984, and Taylor had another All-Pro season. Taylor got off to an exceptional start to the season including four sacks in a September game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and 8 total sacks in the Giants first four games. Due to this start opposing teams double and triple teamed him even more than usual throughout the remainder of the season and Taylor finished with 11.5 sacks. In the playoffs the Giants defeated the Los Angeles Rams 16–13, but ultimately lost 21–10 to the eventual champion 49ers.
In contrast to the previous season the Giants headed into the 1985 season with a sense of optimism after their successful 1984 campaign and a 5–0 pre-season record in 1985. The Giants finished the season with a 10–6 record, and Taylor spearheaded a defense that led the NFL in sacks with 68. Taylor himself had 13 sacks and the Giants defeated the defending champion 49ers 17–3 in the playoffs. The Giants lost to the eventual champion Chicago Bears in the second round 21–0.In 1986 Taylor had one of the most successful seasons by a defensive player in the history of the NFL. Taylor recorded a league-leading 20.5 sacks and became one of just three defensive players to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award and the only defensive player to ever win the award unanimously. In addition, Taylor won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Giants finished the season 14-2 and dominated their opposition in the NFC playoffs, beating San Francisco and Washington by a combined score of 66–3. Taylor appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated alone the week leading up to Super Bowl XXI with a warning from the magazine to the Denver Broncos regarding Taylor. In Super Bowl XXI, after overcoming a slow start, the Giants cruised past the Denver Broncos 39–20. Taylor made a key stop on a goal line play in the first half, tackling John Elway as he sprinted out on a rollout, a play which prevented a touchdown.

With the Super Bowl win, Taylor had just capped off an unprecedented start to his career. Six years into his career Taylor had won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award (1981), the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award a record three times (1981, 1982, 1986), been named to the AP All-Pro first team six times (1981–86), became the first defensive player in NFL history to be unanimously voted the league's MVP (1986), and led his team to a championship (1986).

After unmemorable seasons in 1987, and 1988, in 1989, Taylor recorded 15 sacks. He was forced to play the latter portion of the season with a fractured tibia, which he suffered in a 34–24 loss to the 49ers in week 12.The 1990 season got off to an inauspicious start for Taylor and the Giants as Taylor held out of a training camp, demanding a new contract with a salary of $2 million dollars per year. Talks dragged into September with neither side budging, and as the season approached Taylor received fines at the rate of $2,500 dollars a day. Taylor signed a contract just four days before the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite sitting out training camp and the preseason, Taylor started against the Eagles and finished with three sacks and a forced fumble. Taylor finished the season with 10.5 sacks and earned his 10th Pro Bowl in as many years, although the season marked the first time in Taylor's career that he would not make the first team on the Associated Press All-Pro team. The Giants started out 10–0 and finished with a 13–3 record. In the playoffs the Giants defeated the Bears 31–3, and went on to face their rival the 49ers in the NFC conference championship game. The Giants won a close game 15–13, as Taylor recovered a key fumble late in the game to set up Matt Bahr's game-winning field goal. In Super Bowl XXV Taylor's Giants faced off against the Buffalo Bills and in one of the more entertaining Super Bowls in history won 20–19.

1991 marked a steep decline in Taylor's production. It became the first season in his career that he did not make the Pro Bowl, after setting a then record by making it his first ten years in the league. Taylor finished with 7 sacks in 14 games. He rebounded in the early stages of what many thought would be his final season in 1992. Through close to 9 games Taylor was on pace for 10 sacks and the Giants were 5–4. However, a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in a November 8 game against Green Bay, sidelined him for the final seven games, during which the team went 1–6. Before the injury Taylor had missed only 4 games due to injury in his 12 year career, including two the previous year. Throughout the 1992 season, and the ensuing offseason, Taylor was noncomittal about his future, alternately saying he might retire, then later hinting he wanted a longer-term contract.

Taylor returned for the 1993 season enticed by the chance to play with a new coach (the newly hired Dan Reeves), and determined not end his career due to injury. The Giants experienced a resurgent season in 1993. They finished 11–5 and competed for the top playoff seeds in the conference. Taylor finished with 6 sacks, and the Giants defense led the NFL in fewest points allowed. The Giants played the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs and defeated them 17–10. The next week on January 15, 1993 in what would ultimately be Taylor's final game the Giants faced the 49ers and were beaten convincingly 44–3. As the game drew to a conclusion television cameras drew in close on Taylor who was visibly crying. Taylor announced his retirement at the post-game press conference.

Lawrence Taylor is often considered to be one of the greatest defensive players in the history of football, and has been ranked as the greatest defensive player in history by media members, former players, and coaches. He is also widely considered to be one of the most feared players to ever step onto the football field. Taylor's explosive speed and power is credited with having changed the position of outside linebacker from a "read and react" type of position to a more attacking, aggressive position.

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