ESPN poll ranks Lawrence Taylor ahead of Reggie White as best edge rusher ever

There’s no better time to get people riled up than during the summer leading up to NFL season. Rankings, lists and debates can send the internet into a frenzy. We’ve done that at PhillyVoice, ranking the best QBs, RBs, WRs, pass rushers, DBs and returners in Eagles history. ESPN threw their hat in the ring on Wednesday, as a poll from 50 reporters and analysts picked the greatest player of all time at every defensive and special teams position. 

While no Eagle (unjustly) received the true GOAT nod from ESPN, several former players warranted votes and consideration. The biggest snub certainly is Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor being named the best edge rusher ever over Reggie White. Outrage! 40 of the 50 people voted for Taylor and White was the first runner-up with eight votes. 

Here was the write-up on White:

Eagles reporter Tim McManus argues that White was the more consistently dominant player because “he posted 12 double-digit-sack seasons over 15 years (seven over 13 years for Taylor).” He continues, “You can argue that Taylor flashed the brightest, but White was a relentless, unstoppable force for the better part of two decades.” Fantasy writer Mike Clay points simply to “198.0 sacks (second most all time), a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards, 13 All-Pro appearances and a Super Bowl ring.” [ESPN]

ESPN NFL reporter Dan Graziano (who previously covered the whole NFC East and then the Giants for the Worldwide Leader) said the following…

Taylor is the best football player I have ever seen, regardless of position. I’ve heard the Reggie White arguments, but they always strike me as parochial — Philadelphia fans who don’t want to admit the guy from New York was better than their guy — and I just don’t see where White was better outside of longevity. Even Patriots coach Bill Belichick considers LT the best player in the history of the game, and who am I to argue with that? [ESPN]

I hope LT sees this, bro!

Let’s compare Taylor and White’s careers:

 Category  Taylor White 
 Super Bowl Wins
Defensive Player of the Year Awards  3
 Pro Bowls 10 13 
First-Team All-Pro selections   8 
Second-Team All-Pro selections  5
Sacks   142 198 

I have an inherit bias, sure, but I’m leaning towards the Minister of Defense on this one. 

For linebackers, the great Chuck Bendarik received one vote as the best to ever do it. No reasoning was given for Bendarik’s placement, as he was only tied for sixth in the LB rankings. In ESPN’s greatest of all time poll for offensive positions on Tuesday, Bednarik actually received 11 votes as the best center of all time. As the second runner-up, Concrete Charlie was behind the Steelers’ Mike Webster (15 votes) and the Raiders’ Jim Otto (13 votes). Here’s what was said about the last of the 60-minute men:

“Maybe I let Bednarik’s full body of work factor in too heavily when I voted for him as the GOAT center,” admits Steelers reporter Brooke Pryor. “A two-way player, Bednarik was an All-Pro selection at both center and linebacker.” [ESPN]

Going to the safety position, Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins was the second runner-up. 49ers legend Ronnie Lott received 27 of the 50 votes. Ed Reed received 15 votes and Dawkins received four. This was the description given for Dawkins:

Bears reporter Courtney Cronin voted with Dawkins and said, “He is the only safety in NFL history to record at least 25 sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles. He took the traditional role fulfilled by a safety and revolutionized it.” [ESPN]

I have no true qualms there. I’d say Reed is the GOAT safety, but Dawkins being in the top three feels right to me. Troy Polamalu garnered two votes, but he wasn’t even the best safety in the state of Pennsylvania in his prime. 

Unsurprisingly, the Bears’ Devin Hester was named the GOAT returner with 29 of the 50 votes. Former Eagle Brian Mitchell was one of the runner-ups, receiving three votes. Here’s what was said about Mitchell:

Commanders reporter John Keim said, “Mitchell averaged more than 11 yards per punt return eight times and owns a number of records, including most combined kickoff- and punt-return yardage, a testament in large part to his consistent high-level performance.” [ESPN]

Mitchell was really only an Eagle at the tail end of his career. He spent just three of his 14 NFL seasons in Philly, but had four return touchdowns during that time. 

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