In the wake of LaDainian Tomlinson announcing his retirement from the NFL, NFL.com has put together a photo essay asking 'Who is the real LT'? Meaning, of course, Tomlinson or legendary New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor?
The answer should be obvious, even to a New York Jets fan who rooted for Tomlinson during his end-of-career seasons with the Jets. Lawrence Taylor is the real LT, and should -- in all honesty -- be the one and only LT.
Jason Smith of NFL.com ends up agreeing, after judging the duo in a number of categories. Let's look at each, and see if we agree.
Best Earrings -- This is not where I would have begun this debate, but it is what it is. Smith says "you can't overestimate the glint factor" and gives the advantaged to Taylor because of the earrings he has in the shape of his initials. Agreed. 1-0, Taylor.
Best Off-Field Image -- Well, we know Taylor is not going to fare well here. Taylor's off-the-field life, both during and after his career, is best described as a train wreck. Tomlinson has been widely regarded as one of the best people in the league. Smith says advantage Tomlinson. Agreed again. Tied at 1-1.
Most Intimidating -- Tomlinson is a lot of things, but intimidating is not one of them. Everything about Taylor has always been intimidating. Even now he could probably still cause NFL quarterbacks pain, and nightmares. Smith votes for Taylor. So do I. Taylor leads, 2-1.
Most Controversial/Embarrassing Episodes -- Let's not even bother with this one. There are so many embarrassing Taylor episodes it's hard to count. Tomlinson has had a couple of angry outbursts, but nothing even in Taylor's league. Smith votes for Tomlinson, which I guess means he is voting for who did not embarrass himself. I will agree. We are tied at 2-2.
Best Number -- Tomlinson's 21 or Taylor's 56? Gotta be the 56. Everybody knows Taylor wore 56, and everybody still wants to be No. 56. Smith votes for Taylor. So do I. Taylor leads, 3-2.
Best City -- Duh! Taylor played his entire career in New York. Tomlinson had a cup of coffee here. San Diego? So what? Smith again votes for Taylor. I do as well. Taylor leads, 4-2.
Acting Career -- Taylor has been out of football long enough to actually have an acting resume. Good or not is debatable, but he has a resume. Tomlinson did a commercial. Landslide for Taylor, and both Smith and I agree. Taylor now leads, 5-2.
Achievements -- Here, I am just going to steal Smith's entire paragraph. "Tomlinson was a five-time Pro Bowl participant. Taylor went 10 times. Tomlinson was a four-time All-Pro. Taylor was a 10-timer, given the honor every year from 1981 to 1990. Tomlinson made the All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Taylor made the 75th anniversary All-Time NFL team. Tomlinson never made it to the Super Bowl. Taylor won it twice. Do we need to keep going?" Taylor now leads, 6-2.
Legacy -- Taylor is in the Hall of Fame. Tomlinson will go to the Hall of Fame. Fact is, though, there have been other great running backs -- several greater than Tomlinson. No one has ever played the linebacker position like Taylor, or changed offense and defensive strategies as much as Taylor. Smith votes Taylor, of course. Me, too.
That makes the finally tally in this exercise 7-2 for Taylor. Smith writes:
"What looked close to start out with turned into a Taylor Torpedo of Truth. Of course, it's kind of hard for the guy who had the nickname first to lose it, especially when the guy who came after didn't have as much of an impact on the game as the one before him."
I have to agree. Tomlinson is a nice player, a great one even. But he's not Lawrence Taylor in accomplishments or legacy. There is only one LT. He wore No. 56 and he played for the New York Giants.