Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan named among ESPN's top pass rushers of all-time
ESPN's Bill Barnwell recently took a trip down memory lane to look at the greatest pass rushers of all-time.
Beginning in 1981 (sacks didn't become an official stat until 1982), Barnwell went year-by-year and identified "who would have been the most popular candidate if you asked fans to name the league's best pass-rusher."
Of course, the list began with perhaps the greatest defensive player in NFL history, legendary Giants edge rusher Lawrence Taylor, who took the honor as league's best pass rusher from 1981-1986.
"Taylor was both Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, when he helped a Giants defense that had been 27th in points allowed jump to third in one season. He was Defensive Player of the Year again in 1982 and won the award again in 1986, becoming the second and most recent defender to win league MVP honors in the process," wrote Barnwell.
"To put Taylor's performance in context, I'll remind you of what coach Bill Belichick said about him in talking to ESPN's Mike Reiss: 'I've been fortunate to coach a lot of great, great defensive players,' Belichick said, 'but when you talk about Lawrence Taylor, now that's a whole different conversation. I mean, honestly, he could have played any position on defense except corner. He probably could have played corner, too, but safety, linebacker, inside, outside, defensive end, defensive tackle. He played nose guard at North Carolina, so put him wherever you want.'"
Taylor's 142.0 career sacks are the most in franchise history, just a half-sack more than Michael Strahan (despite playing 32 fewer games).
His accolades include two-time Super Bowl Champion (XXI, XXV), three-time Defensive Player of the Year (1981, 1982, 1986), league MVP (1986), Defensive Rookie of the Year (1981), 10-time All-Pro selection (1981-1990), 10-time Pro Bowler (1981-1990), and an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1999), just to name a few.
The Giants retired Taylor's No. 56 in 1994.
The best photos of Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who was named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team
Speaking of Strahan, the Hall of Fame defensive end is the second Giants representative to make Barnwell's list, earning the selection as the NFL's best pass rusher in 2001 and 2003.
"Yes, once upon a time, before he became a television star and morning personality, Strahan was a pretty good football player!" joked Barnwell. "It looked like he had peaked with a 15-sack season in 1998, but then came 2001. He was off the scoresheet for the first two weeks of the season but got going fast. He racked up 15 sacks over his next seven games, including a three-sack effort against the Saints and a four-bagger against the Rams."
In addition to his NFL-record 22.5 sacks that season, Strahan also led the league with six forced fumbles and 24 tackles for loss on his way to being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Pro. But the legendary pass rusher wasn't done there.
"In a year in which they won four games, faced only 519 pass attempts and didn't have a single other defensive player with more than 5.5 sacks, he routinely took on double-teams and still managed to consistently make plays," Barnwell added about Strahan's 2003 campaign. "While 2001 was about Strahan taking over a handful of games, 2003 was about consistency. He had 12 different games with at least one sack, a figure that tied him for the league record at the time."
Once again, Strahan led the league with his 18.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in a season that saw him earn First-Team All-Pro honors.
After being selected in the second round (No. 40 overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft out of Texas Southern, Strahan spent his entire career with the Giants and recorded 141.5 sacks, officially the sixth-most in NFL history and just a half-sack shy of Taylor. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and had his No. 92 retired by the Giants in 2021 following six All-Pro selections, seven trips to the Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl Championship (SB XLII).
View photos of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Giants legend Michael Strahan.