MIAMI BEACH – Lawrence Taylor is the last defensive player to win the NFL Most Valuable Player Award, way back in 1986. Patrick Mahomes was the recipient of the award just one year ago.
Mahomes did not repeat as winner in 2019, but he did lead the Kansas City Chiefs to Super Bowl LIV, where he will face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Hard Rock Stadium. Taylor hasn't sacked a quarterback in 26 years and has been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for more than two decades, but he knows exactly what he'd do against Mahomes, who is responsible for 80 touchdowns passing and running the last two seasons.
"You can't let him get outside," Taylor said while making the rounds at Radio Row at the Super Bowl Media Center. "I don't understand spy guy (a player whose sole responsibility is keeping tabs on Mahomes). Every team has a spy guy on Mahomes, but he's always out of position. He's always out of position. You have to set him in the middle and you have to shadow him. You have to be patient and wait for him."
The 49ers have a lethal defensive front that includes four former first-round draft choices. They tied for fifth in the NFL with 48 sacks in the regular season and were the only team in the league to have four players with at least 6.5 sacks. But those numbers didn't particularly impress L.T.
"The whole year, I thought the 49ers were just overrated," Taylor said. "There's no way they were going to win games. There's no way… They kept doing it. You have to say that the defense is for real. Will they be able to put pressure on Mahomes? It's hard to put pressure on a guy that's running around like a fool."
Taylor, of course, chased down his share of quarterbacks whose first objective was to avoid becoming another victim on L.T.'s sack list. He is tied for 14th in NFL history with 132.5 sacks and that that doesn't include the 9.5 he recorded as a rookie in 1981, the year before sacks became an official statistic. Taylor had a career-high 20.5 sacks in his MVP season in 1986, when the Giants won Super Bowl XXI.
And yes, he does have advice for the 49ers' defense as it plots to minimize Mahomes' influence in the Super Bowl.
"Don't do what everybody else does," Taylor said. "Do not lose contain on Mahomes. A lot of teams, they just get out of position and stuff, and they start doing stupid stuff. How do you expect to play defense like that if you're not going to contain the man? Keep contain on him and just play smart football."
Taylor, 60, is one of four Giants – and the only surviving honoree - included on the NFL's Anniversary All-Time team, which will be honored on the field prior to the Super Bowl on Sunday. The others are center Mel Hein, who played for the Giants from 1931-45; tackle Rosie Brown (1953-65); and defensive back Emlen Tunnell, a Giant from 1948-58. Cal Hubbard, another tackle on the all-time team, played three of his 10 seasons with the Giants.
Taylor is one of 21 Pro Football Hall of Famers who spent all or a significant portion of their career with the Giants (this year, George Young, the general manager who drafted him, will be inducted into the Hall).
Taylor believes quarterback Eli Manning should one day join them. Manning, who retired last week after 16 seasons, spent his entire career with the Giants, as did Taylor from 1981-93.
"I look at it as he won two Super Bowls," Taylor said. "Hey, he may not be a first ballot, but is he a Hall of Famer? Of course. He played too many games (248 regular season and postseason). He's done too many good things. He's been the best of the Giants for too many years. He will get into the Hall of Fame, and if he goes on the first ballot, I'm not surprised. But he will get there if he doesn't go on the first."
In 1994, a year after his final season, Taylor's No. 56 was retired by the Giants, who have 12 numbers that are no longer worn. Team president John Mara announced at Manning's retirement news conference that the quarterback's No. 10 will be retired. He also said informally that the No. 92 worn by Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan is also retired. Taylor's reaction? "I thought it already was."
Now that that's settled, Taylor can turn his attention to what is setting up to be a very exciting Super Bowl LIV.
"The Super Bowl is a great game itself," Taylor said. "Everything's going to be on the line. I like the challenge. That's what I think a lot of those guys, that's what they want. They just want the challenge. So hey, it's going to be a good game."