The NFL has had some great defensive players, and while many come from different eras, fans love to talk about the GOATs of the sport. On both the offensive and defensive side of the football debates are continuous. Recently, Pro Football Focus posted on Twitter, asking if Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is now considered the GOAT.
Is Aaron Donald the defensive 🐐 pic.twitter.com/r7D6DbOm8X
— PFF (@PFF) July 22, 2022
The silly question was actually a rehash of a debate that was running furiously through the social media channels and talking-head TV. Stephen A. Smith said the only person who you call out ahead of Aaron Donald is Lawrence Taylor. Even Bill Belichick agrees with that.
It’s interesting that an argument that we all agreed was pretty much dead, because Taylor has no equals, has grown legs again.
While Donald should definitely be mentioned amongst the greats, there are some former legends who could also stake claim to that GOAT title. Lawrence “LT” Taylor is a Hall of Famer and three-time NFL DPOY. He didn’t comment the last time this conversation was jumping, but this time LT got his Twitter fingers working and put a think emoji up as he retweeted PFF’s tweet.
— Lawrence “LT” Taylor (@LT_56) July 23, 2022
Here’s what Belichick had to say about his star pupil when he manned the Giants defense:
“His dominance. The greatness of Lawrence Taylor. He’s bigger, stronger, faster, more explosive. Even though he didn’t really know what he was doing instinctively as a football player, he’s at the very top of the list.”
For Belichick to say LT didn’t really know what he was doing is amazing, because he was dominant even not knowing his assignments many times. He had a natural feel for the game that is unmatched by any defensive player in history.
Donald Is A Generational Talent: But LT Changed The Game
There’s no way to discredit any of Donald’s accomplishments. He’s been named DPOY three times, seven-time First Team All-Pro, and an eight-time Pro Bowl player in his eight-year career, winning the Super Bowl this past season to complete his Hall of Fame résumé.
But when we talk LT, that’s the stuff of game-changing legend. As a rookie Taylor won Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors. Taylor’s also a 10-time Pro Bowl player who accumulated 142 quarterback sacks in an era where teams didn’t throw nearly as much as they do now. But it was the fear that he put in opposing offenses that made him so special.
— Lawrence “LT” Taylor (@LT_56) January 26, 2019
Other Legendary Coaches Marveled At Taylor
Former legendary Raiders head coach John Madden had this to say about Taylor and his effect on NFL defense.
“Lawrence Taylor definitely has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen. He’s changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebacker is played, and the way offenses block linebackers.”
Taylor helped coin the term edge-rushing outside linebacker during a time those players were strictly used to stop the run and cover opposing backs and tight ends in pass coverage. As great as Donald is, he didn’t do that.
If you ask legendary Washington football coach Joe Gibbs (the only head coach to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks) how good LT was, he’ll probably just show you the position he created to try and block the New York Giants legend. It’s called H-Back and it’s a cross between tight end, running back and lineman.
Taylor wreaked havoc on offenses, and his play allowed his teammates to feast when teams decided to focus primarily on blocking him. Donald is the best in the business, but historically he’s not there yet when we are talking GOATs.