Yesterday, the NFL announced the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, with seven players/executives making the cut for this year. Included in the group was legendary Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who was selected in his first year of eligibility. He joins other Dolphins first ballot selections center Jim Langer (Class of 1987), quarterback Dan Marino (2005), linebacker Junior Seau (2015), coach Don Shula (1997), and wide receiver Paul Warfield (1983).
Other players from the Dolphins in the Hall of Fame include linebacker Nick Buoniconti (2001), running back Larry Csonka (1987), quarterback Bob Griese (1990), guard Larry Little (1993), and center Dwight Stephenson (1998). Wide receiver Cris Carter (2013) and running back Thurman Thomas (2007) both played their respective final season in the league with the Dolphins, though they are clearly Hall of Famers for the careers they had with other teams.
After the announcement of Taylor’s inclusion in the 2017 Hall of Fame class, several key members of the Dolphins, the Hall of Fame, and current stars shared their thoughts on Taylor and his career.
Dolphins Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner Stephen Ross: "Jason’s on-field dominance left an impact on the Dolphins’ defense that may never be equaled. But when I got to know him, I found he was an even better person who truly cared not only about his team, but also his community. He has been an outstanding ambassador for his sport, for the Dolphins, and for all of South Florida. His accomplishments on the field made him one of the greatest players in Dolphins history, but his enduringexample as a role model to so many people adds a distinctive luster to that legacy. On behalf of the entire Dolphins organization I want to congratulate Jason on his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino: "Jason was a game-changer on defense and every time I watched him play he would do something that truly amazed me. He is one of the best players and pass rushers I’ve ever been around. I want to congratulate him on making the Hall – he certainly deserves it.”
Ravens Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden: "It was just demoralizing as an offensive player whenever he'd get the sack, then the strip, the recovery, and then you had to worry about him running like a deer to the end zone after that. It was like he could hit the trifecta on any play. But that was the threat he brought to every game.
“One of the great compliments I can pay him is he's a playmaker. Only a few players find ways to make plays like that for the defense. Some guys might get the sack, but not the strip. But he was so adept at making plays that when the opportunity presented itself, he didn't miss very often. He could turn a basic play that might just be a tackle for a loss into a touchdown for the defense. He was one of those guys. He delivered the extra and above of the guys from my era.”
Chiefs/Bills/Panthers/Colts Hall of Fame front office executive Bill Polian: “Look, when I think of defensive players in the Hall of Fame, I think of guys that you had to game-plan for. Did they affect you during the week of preparation as well as on Sunday? We know Jason affected games on Sunday. He was a difference-maker. Period. End of story. But the fact he did that at such a high, high level even after you spent so much time planning for him not to succeed makes him a Hall of Famer.”
Bills/Redskis Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith: “The fact that I played in Buffalo for so long, I had the opportunity to watch Jason Taylor grow as a player and become a dominant pass rusher and one of the best of his time. He truly had a remarkable career, moving from not being drafted very high to seventh among the all-time greatest pass rushers. That's an incredible accomplishment – it’s a Hall of Fame accomplishment.”
Six-time Super Bowl champion coach Bill Belichick: “I coached more games against Jason Taylor than any other player in my career and I'm sure he was probably the one who RUINED the most games. Jason was a relentless competitor and a true game-changer for how he disrupted our offense and forced us to game plan for him. He was a remarkable player.”
Patriots four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady: “The games against Jason are some of my most (well, maybe least) memorable. He is one of the greatest opponents I’ve ever faced, having had the “pleasure” of looking across the line and seeing him on the opposite side of the ball, not once, but twice each season for a decade. While I entered the league with a healthy respect for Jason and the incredibly talented Miami defense he led, my admiration for him as a player and a person only continued to grow with each play; each game; each season.
“Coach Belichick and the rest of our staff have a reputation of game planning against a team’s strengths. Perhaps one of the biggest compliments I can pay to Jason is the amount of hours we spent watching film of him over the years and going over what we needed to do to neutralize him. I can’t say we ever came up with a great answer.”
Colts/Broncos two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Peyton Manning: “Jason Taylor was a one-of-a-kind defensive player. We played against him in the AFC East my first four years. I saw him twice a year and he was a guy that we truly game-planned for because we learned if we didn't, he made you pay. So from a protection standpoint, we always knew where he was and we were always going to factor him in every time that we were dropping back to pass. He had that kind of presence and that kind of impact.”
Dolphins Honor Roll linebacker Zach Thomas: “Jason truly deserved to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. I never saw anyone disrupt an offense like Jason, and I never saw anyone more competitive. He was a great teammate who demanded the most out of everyone he played with and made each of them a better player. That’s truly the mark of a Hall of Famer.
“I’m happy for JT, his family, and the Dolphins organization, especially their many fans. I want to congratulate Jason on his singular honor and I’m so happy he will forever be known as a Hall of Famer.”