Bill Belichick on Thursday got to do one of his very favorite things: talk about Lawrence Taylor.
The New England Patriots head coach famously adores Taylor, whom he coached from 1981 through 1990 while working for the New York Giants. Many consider Taylor the greatest linebacker in NFL history, if not the greatest defensive player in the history of football.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss began Thursday’s virtual press conference by asking Belichick about Taylor’s rookie season, which saw the North Carolina product win NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year, and earn first-team All-Pro honors. For a follow-up, Reiss asked Belichick to identify what stood out about Taylor during the 1981 campaign.
Here’s the full exchange, which lasted roughly three minutes and featured 302 words from Belichick:
Reiss: “His rookie year, what do you think contributed to him assimilating so well to the NFL?”
Belichick: “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.”
Reiss: “What do you remember about that rookie year? Was there something that stood out to you … that resonates with you to this day?”
Belichick: “First practice. He played on all four phases in the kicking game, so he was hard to block on punt protection, as you can imagine. We didn’t use him too much there. He was the gunner on the punt team. He was impossible to block. He played in the middle on kickoff return and he had some of the biggest hits I’ve ever seen. He played safety on kickoff coverage and you were never really concerned that they were going to get it too far, past the 30 or whatever. So, he dominated from the first day of practice. Playoff game against Philadelphia, he really was the difference in that game, just on covering punts. Then of course, once we started doing that with Taylor, then the Redskins did it with Monte Coleman, Dexter Manley, well Dexter Manley first and then eventually Coleman. Anyway, just other teams started doing it and so then it was kind of almost wish we hadn’t done it. But there’s nobody that really I could put in his category that I’ve coached. There may be others that I haven’t coached, but I mean, he’s head and shoulders above whoever the next player is. And I’ve been fortunate to coach a lot of great, great defensive players, 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.”
After Reiss thanked Belichick, the Patriots coach added: “Sure, love talking about Lawrence.”
The video version is even more compelling, as Belichick’s facial expressions reveal just how much he admires Taylor’s football career.
Obviously, many NFL fans either weren’t alive or were too young to witness Taylor’s greatness. You can click here to watch a highlights video that does a great job of capturing Taylor’s unique, explosive talents.