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View from the O-Zone: Taylor belongs in Hall discussion


JACKSONVILLE – Here's the thing to know this week about Fred Taylor.

He's right. Of course he is.

He belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; at minimum, he belongs in the discussion.

Of course he does.

Taylor, one of the all-time great players in Jaguars history, also is one of the best running backs in NFL history. He's routinely recognized as the former, but not always as the latter.

The latter is an injustice, which Taylor discussed on Twitter this week.

"I earned respect on the field – numbers better than the majority of runners in NFL history," Taylor tweeted. "Still don't understand why the writers don't respect it."

Taylor tweeted a few other thoughts along these lines, noting that his numbers are better than the majority of backs in the Hall and that he faced big-time defenses twice a year (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tennessee) for a lot of his career.

He also noted that he has perspective on the whole situation, answering a fan who said, "Don't let it get to you" by saying he wouldn't, and that his Twitter thoughts were simply him "having a moment."

Taylor is entitled to such a moment, because he's right. Of course he is.

He's right, too, to be frustrated – just as he would have been right to be frustrated recently when he was not included on analyst Gil Brandt's list of the Top 27 running backs in NFL history.

Brandt is as knowledgeable as it comes when it comes to all-time NFL players, but not having Taylor on a list of Top 27 running backs is a miss.

For that matter, not having him pretty high on that list is a miss, too.

Taylor not being in the mix for the Hall is a miss, too. It's a miss that deserves discussion – the same as former Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli not being in the Hall yet deserves discussion. Both players are deserving, and discussion keeps hopes alive.

The first thing that must happen for Taylor is this: he must be among the modern-era nominees, which he has not been in his first two years of eligibility. This clearly is an oversight. Teams do not nominate players for the Hall; if they did, the number of nominees would be absurdly high and include every retired player from every team.

The Hall of Fame website says that anyone, including fans, can nominate a player. Committee members can do it, and even a player himself. The thought here is that with this issue gaining profile, Taylor will be on the nominee list for 2018.

The modern-era nominees are released in September, with 25 semifinalists announced in November and 15 finalists announced in January. That's the group that gets voted upon by electors along with senior and contributor finalists. Hall voting takes place the day before each Super Bowl.

The road can be a long, frustrating one. Jaguars fans have seen this in recent years while following Boselli's process. A five-time Pro Bowl selection and 1990s All-Decade member, Boselli first made the Hall semifinal list in 2016. He made the Top 10 in the 2017 voting, and momentum seems to be in his favor.

It's conceivable that Taylor will have a similar path.

The reason that's conceivable is Taylor's credentials are absolutely Hall-worthy. He is the NFL's 17th all-time leading rusher, and his 4.6-yards-per-carry average is fourth among backs in the Top 20. Six of his seven 1,000-yard seasons were 1,200-yard seasons and stand as statistical proof of what those who watched him closely know – that his rare combination of size, strength and speed made him not only a bruising, physical runner but a breakaway threat on every carry.

How special was Taylor? Watch a highlight video. Watch him break through the line; watch him fake one way and leave defenders falling another way. Watch him accelerate after a juke and leave defenders with tackling angles in his wake.

"Look at the numbers," former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell said during an appearance on NFL Network's Good Morning Football Thursday. "Look at the impact he made while he was on the field. That speaks for itself right there. I think that's a great argument. Look at the production on the field, the longevity. I think you could make a great argument."

This won't be easy for Taylor. I'm not one who believes Hall voters have a bias against Jacksonville, but neither will Taylor have the benefit of having played in a Super Bowl, or in a large market, or from having been a prime-time staple while playing. It's not right that those things matter in Hall voting, but the influence is real. His road to the Hall will be rough. Rightly or wrongly.

But it's a road that he should get to travel, because this is a guy who belongs in the discussion. At minimum. Of course he does.

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