Jason Taylor hugs Bill Belichick after the Patriots defeat the Dolphins 27-17 on Nov. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
It was a football decision for both sides, plain and simple. The Dolphins wanted the leverage of waiting until after the Draft, while Jason Taylor jumped at an offer he feared wouldn’t be there come April 24.
The 35-year-old linebacker claimed that the New York Jets were the only team that showed interest in signing him, and wanted to continue playing football at the risk of waiting for the Dolphins to make up their mind. A part of me hates him for choosing to go to a rival he’d publicly hated and ridiculed for a dozen years, whose fans, in his own words, “take the ‘cl’ out of class.”
But as Taylor himself has shown, there’s no such thing as loyalty in sports, and I don’t fault him for going to a team that wanted him more (although it still troubles me that Taylor would be satisfied with getting the only ring of his career as a member of the Jets).
I fault him for berating the Dolphins front office for not showing him the respect he deserves when he’s continuously failed to give them the same courtesy.
Two years ago, after the Dolphins finished 1-15, Taylor wanted out of Miami in order to play for a Super Bowl contender in the latter stages of his career. The 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year opted to compete on Dancing With the Stars rather than attend the team’s offseason conditioning program, enraging new head of football operations Bill Parcells. Despite having two years left on his contract, Taylor announced that he only planned to play one more season.
When he was shipped to the Washington Redskins in July 2008, he quickly reversed course and said he’d honor the remaining two years of his deal. Despite his worst season in a decade — just 3.5 sacks in 13 games — the ‘Skins, who finished last in their division, wanted to keep Taylor for another season. But in a feud reminiscent of Dancing-gate, he refused to work out with the team during the offseason in order to spend time with his family, and was soon released.
In May 2009, he signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins, insisting that his heart was always in Miami. After Taylor turned down an extension in November because he felt “it wasn’t the right time,” he said Miami withdrew the proposal and never spoke to him again.
But according to a recent report, he actually declined another offer after the season, which included a significant raise, and the team was unsure if he wanted to continue playing after he underwent late shoulder surgery. By the time he was finally ready to talk, the Dolphins wanted to wait until after the Draft before making a commitment to a player who was on the downside of his stellar career.
Regardless of who’s to be believed, Parcells is as old school as they come and doesn’t let fan sentiment or presumed loyalty influence his business decisions. Hell, he cut Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, who’d just set the NFL rushing record, shortly after coming over to the Dallas Cowboys. Parcells likely believed the team was better without the aging Taylor, even as a situational pass rusher, and certainly wasn’t going to reward him after he turned down at least one confirmed offer.
Watching Taylor line up against Dolphins in Jet green next season will be heartbreaking for many fans, many of whom will never forgive him. The irony is, he essentially chose to sign with the AFC East version of the his old Redskins squad, a New York team that has acquired numerous over-the-hill players to assemble a paper champion that’s destined to finish around .500.
Thanks for the memories, JT, and good luck with your future acting career. And thanks for at least not pulling a Brett Favre and dragging this soap opera through the entire offseason.