Kirby Lee

Jimmy Johnson Talks About Miami Dolphins Jason Taylor, 1997 Draft

Jimmy Johnson sheds light on the career of Miami Dolphins great Jason Taylor.

CANTON, OH - Earlier this week, on Monday afternoon, Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist—Jason Taylor, announced his intentions to have his former head coach, Jimmy Johnson, present him at the Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio.

The following day, Johnson had an interview on CBS Radio’s 560 WQAM. Hosts Joe Rose and Zach Krantz from the Joe Rose Show interviewed the current Fox Sports Analyst, where he reflected on Taylor’s career. “When Jason called me, I told him that I would be honored to present him,” said the former-Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins coach. “You know, he deserved to be in there. He was such a great player. And, you know, the thing about Jason was that he made plays that won ball games.”

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Johnson then went on to describe the game-changing impact Taylor made for the Dolphins. “The 3 years I coached him, we were in the playoffs all 3 years, won a couple playoff games. He made a big impact on our football team. He’d get the strip, he’d get the fumble, he’d run it in for the touchdown—really just a great player and a great person. He was just a pleasure to coach.” The coach elaborated on his recruiting and drafting philosophy about the primary intangibles he looks for in potential players and where he liked to draft them. “I wanted intelligent players. Not only did I want them to be talented and play-makers, but I wanted them to be smart. And that was my number 1 requirement on players. Obviously, I took some that weren’t that smart, but it was in the later rounds. In the early rounds, I wanted smart players.” Why smart players? “Smart players get better, smart players make instinctive plays. They make plays that you can’t teach.”

No doubt Jason Taylor was as smart as they come, he always made the extra effort to disrupt offensive plays on the field. Whether it was jumping up to knock down a pass, giving an extra reach to the football while pass-rushing, or creeping-up behind an unwary running back to pop the ball out from his hands. This was the instinct Jimmy Johnson was talking about, and made JT’s game stand out from other defensive ends in the league. Eventually, leading the pass-rusher to Canton as a 1st-Ballot Hall of Famer. Jimmy Johnson reflected back on the 1997 draft where he had an important decision to make in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, after they selected wide-receiver Yatil Green in the 1st. “I had targeted a few players, but two of the players I targeted were Sam Madison and Jason Taylor. And I was going to try to get them in the 2nd and 3rd round,” said the coach. “And in the 2nd-round, I was trying to make a decision whether to pick Jason or to pick Sam.” However, due to Jason Taylor’s slender build and lack of prototypical size during that era, many scouts and general manager’s were skeptical about his ability to play in the league.

Jimmy noticed this and used it to his advantage during the draft. “Because Jason was such an undersized defensive player, I knew everybody in the league looked at him as a tweener—a guy who wasn’t really big enough to rush the passer and be a defensive lineman—and I knew that Sam was a playmaker… he[Madison] is going to be the one that they are going to go after,” said Johnson. “So I took Sam in the 2nd-round, and then I was able to move up and get Jason in the 3rd-round. But it was a coin-toss which one to take in the 2nd- round.” The “coin-toss” aspect is correct. Sam Madison acquired 38 interceptions, 81 pass-breakups, made 4 Pro Bowls, and was a 4-time All-Pro during his career. He was also a significant part of a Miami defense that was one of the best in the league from the late-90s to the mid-2000s. Jason Taylor’s slender and “undersized” body didn’t bother Johnson though. Taylor reminded Johnson of another Hall of Fame player and former-Cowboy that he acquired in 1992 from the San Fransisco 49ers—Charles Haley. Haley won a total of 5 Superbowl rings during his career with the Cowboys and 49ers.

Unfortunately for Taylor, he never won 5 Superbowls. He never even won 1 Superbowl. He never even played in a Superbowl. But the defensive end went on to become 7th All-time in sacks with 139.5, a 6-time Pro Bowler, and a 3-time First-Team All-Pro. Heading into the 1997 draft, Norv Turner was the coach of the Redskins and really liked Jason Taylor, but Washington’s scouting department, led by general manager Charlie Casserly, differed in opinion due to Taylor’s small frame. “I think Charlie Casserly regrets that,” Jimmy Johnson said jokingly. Taylor did eventually play for the Redskins in 2008 after he was traded from the Dolphins to the Redskins for Washington’s 2009 2nd-round pick and 2010 6th-rounder, but found himself back on the Dolphins the following year. Jason Taylor will be honored and presented by Jimmy Johnson at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday Night-- August 5th.

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