Imagine lining up every player who has worn the NFL shield over the course of 100 seasons and picking teams. You would want Lawrence Taylor on your side.
In celebration of its centennial, the league charged a 26-person blue-ribbon panel with that very task and all agreed. The Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl champion was named Friday to the NFL 100 All-Time Team, which is being unveiled by position. Last week, 12 running backs were chosen.
On Friday night, linebackers and defensive ends were revealed. Taylor was one of five Giants finalists this week, along with Harry Carson, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli and Michael Strahan.
"I'm honored to be part of such an exclusive group of great players," Taylor said. "I'm humbled that my legacy continues all these years later, I know how fortunate I am for that. I want to acknowledge Mr. (Wellington) Mara for his support during my career; Bill Parcells, who will always be my coach; coach (Bill) Belichick, whose accomplishments speak for themselves; and each and every one of my teammates. Couldn't have done it without them. Lastly, the NYG fans, they were with me the day I arrived in 1981 and have never left my side. I'm forever grateful."
Taylor joined the Giants as the second overall selection of the 1981 NFL Draft and played his entire 13-year career for the team. When Taylor retired, he was the NFL's No. 2 all-time sack leader with 132.5. That total does not include the 9.5 he accumulated as a rookie in 1981 before the sack was an official statistic.
Taylor established an NFL record by appearing in 10 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1981-1990. He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1981 and the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week nine times (the award was established in 1984), as well as the conference's Defensive Player of the Month twice. Taylor was a unanimous choice to the NFL's All-1980s team. He was also a unanimous selection as the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1986, when he had a career-high 20.5 sacks, 105 tackles, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles. No defensive player has won the award since him.
The NFL 100 All-Time Team serves as the marquee series within the celebration of the league's 100th season. NFL Media enlisted Bill Belichick, who was Taylor's defensive coordinator with the Giants, Cris Collinsworth and Rich Eisen to serve as hosts of the six-episode unveiling.
In building the structure of the team, the organizing committee researched various commemorative team compilations done by other leagues and organizations. Ultimately, a 100-player team was decided upon, with a specific number of players – unranked – across the following positions: quarterbacks (10), running backs (12), wide receivers (10), tight ends (five), tackles (seven), guards (seven), centers (four), defensive ends (seven), defensive tackles (seven), linebackers (12 – six inside, six outside), cornerbacks (seven), safeties (six), kickers (two), punters (two) and kick returners (two).
Members of the 26-person blue-ribbon panel are:
League Voters: Joel Bussert (Former NFL Vice President of Player Personnel and League Historian), Joe Horrigan (42-year Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive), Chris Willis (NFL Films Historian)
Coaches: Bill Belichick (six-time Super Bowl-winning Head Coach), Tony Dungy (Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning Head Coach), Dick LeBeau (Pro Football Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl-winning Defensive Coordinator), John Madden (Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning Head Coach), Don Shula (Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning Head Coach), Dick Vermeil (Super Bowl-winning Head Coach)
Personnel: Ernie Accorsi (18-year NFL General Manager), Gil Brandt (Pro Football Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl-winning General Manager), Charley Casserly (14-year NFL General Manager and three-time Super Bowl Champion), Bill Polian (Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning General Manager), Ron Wolf (Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning General Manager)
Players: Dan Fouts (Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and veteran broadcaster), Ron Jaworski (former NFL quarterback and veteran broadcaster), Ozzie Newsome (Pro Football Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl Champion General Manager), Art Shell (Pro Football Hall of Famer, two-time Super Bowl Champion and former Head Coach)
Media: Dave Anderson (Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with the New York Times who covered the NFL for more than 50 years), Judy Battista (NFL Media National Columnist and Reporter), Jarrett Bell (Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and USA Today NFL Columnist), Chris Berman (ESPN anchor since 1979), Rick Gosselin (Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and former Dallas Morning News Columnist), Peter King (Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and veteran sportswriter), Don Pierson (Author and veteran sportswriter), Charean Williams (Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and veteran sportswriter and president of the Pro Football Writers Association)
"It's hard to put into words the amount of time and dedication put forth on this project over the past year across our Network, NFL Films and Digital Content teams," said Hans Schroeder, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, NFL Media. "Paying homage to 100 seasons of the NFL is a daunting task, and I could not be prouder of the coordination and caliber of work done by our talented group of storytellers."