MMQB Mail: Why Fred Taylor is still valuable and more questions
Pats, Steelers and others could use a hungry, low-salary veteran like Fred Taylor
The combine is overhyped, but don't discount how important face-time can be
More on the future for Mike Vick, Drew Stanton, Vernon Gholston and others
Now, the first question for Fred Taylor is: Why should anyone in the NFL take a chance on you? Taylor's 33 years old, which is the age running backs often are in their third year of retirement. Or fourth.
Well, there are three reasons why Taylor is a very good gamble -- and not even a significant gamble, because he's not going to cost much money -- for a contender who needs a back to carry the ball 200 times this fall:
1. Taylor hasn't gotten too beaten up over the second half of his career, so he should be able to be the kind of role-playing back a contender could use. Since turning 28 five years ago, he's been a part-time running back and he's averaged 210 carries a year over that span.
2. He also averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry over that five-year stretch. Now, last year that number plummeted to 3.9 a pop, and teams will look at that drop off and say, "He's falling off a cliff.'' Maybe he is. It's a legitimate concern, and it'll take some pouring over tape to see if the holes simply weren't there for the Jags in 2008 (Maurice Jones-Drew's per-carry average also dropped, in his case half-a-yard from 2007-08) or if Taylor's really done.
3. Hunger. Taylor wants it bad.
"This change inspires me so much,'' he said from his Miami home late Monday. "I'm ready for it. It's like my first shot at free-agency. I expect to go somewhere and run till my wheels fall off.''
Taylor's first words when I got him on the phone were, "Yeah, I got whacked." But he expected it. When the Jags called last Friday to say they wanted to meet with him in Miami on Monday, and that owner Wayne Weaver would be coming along, it was a pretty good hint they weren't coming down to discuss a salary cut.
"It was very professional and respectful by Mr. Weaver," said Taylor. "They handled it first-class, and I'm very appreciative of that. I am not disappointed in the Jags by any means. They could have just called me, or they could have called Drew [agent Drew Rosenhaus], but they took the extra step to come down here and tell me to my face. Men show up. Men tell you things to your face. And I will never forget that. I will call Mr. Weaver in a few years, and I will retire as a Jaguar. My loyalty for 11 years has been to the Jaguars, just like Emmitt Smith's loyalty was to the Cowboys. Whatever team I sign with, I will retire as a Jaguar.''
It's the time of year for the chopping block. Baltimore dumped Chris McAlister Monday. Denver cut Dewayne Robertson, one of the most disappointing high first-round picks in recent history. The Bucs will do the same in the next day or two with Jeff Garcia. So there's nothing surprising about Jacksonville cutting a 33-year-old running back as Jones-Drew prepares for the final season before his contract expires.
"Realistically, you anticipate it will come to this," Taylor said. "When you get past the 10-year mark, you can never be comfortable. They asked me if I was interested in retiring. I said no. Definitely no. I want to play in a Super Bowl so bad, and the Super Bowl's down here in Miami next year. I want to be in that game. Two years ago, Plaxico [Burress], my child's godfather, won the Super Bowl. This year, my little cousin from Belle Glade [Fla.], Santonio Holmes, was the MVP in the biggest game in the world. My taste for that game is getting stronger and stronger. And honestly, I feel fresh. I get inspired by young guys and showing them what I can do. There are a lot of young guys I'm still quicker than. God gave me a lot when he was handing out ability. I still have a lot."
I'll be surprised if Indianapolis, New England and Pittsburgh do not at least sniff around Taylor. The Colts have seen Taylor shred them several times over the past few years. Bill Belichick won Super Bowls with Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon, two backs in the twilight of their careers with something to prove, and he knows he can't trust Laurence Maroney to stay healthy. (I know he's got Sammy Morris, and I love Sammy Morris, but Taylor and Morris would be a pretty good 1-2 punch come December.) The Steelers have a very good insurance policy in Mewelde Moore behind Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, but Mike Tomlin loves the running game, and he loves productive veterans.
New Orleans, Arizona, Chicago and Green Bay should sniff too.
We'll see. I say Taylor has a good contributing year left.
Now, onto your e-mail:
I AGREE. From George P., of Tempe, Ariz.: "Peter, I always look forward to the Monday columns, but I never look forward to the NFL combine. Are you going to Indianapolis this week? What do you think about the amount of emphasis NFL GMs and scouts put on these workouts? I personally see it as the NFL hyping up an event to make it more important than it really is.''
I am going to the combine, and I concur it's over-emphasized. But scouts get to see the players in the fall, and this is when teams -- coaches, doctors, general managers -- get their first exposure to the 330 players they might draft in nine weeks. Teams can meet up to 60 prospects and get face time with them, and you can't underestimate the importance these meetings play in the draft process. Overall, I think we in the media make rash judgments based on how a guy runs or throws or catches in Indy, but it still serves a purpose -- physically, mentally and medically -- that's pretty valuable to the teams.
YES, DREW STANTON WILL GET A SHOT. From Matt Burk, of Pittsburgh: "Peter, with the front-office shakeup and coaching staff changeover in Detroit, do you think Drew Stanton will get an opportunity to be the Lions' starting QB? I think it's rare that a team takes a QB in the second round of the NFL draft and doesn't give him at least a legitimate shot at the job.''
Agreed. I'll tell you this about Jim Schwartz -- he'll be fair with Stanton. He'll take a legitimate look at him at mini-camps and training camp and see for himself if the kid can do it. Now, unfortunately for Stanton, the Lions may have to make a decision on draft day that will trump him, but it doesn't mean he won't get meaningful snaps and a chance to show his stuff this summer.
MY GUT FEELING IS GHOLSTON WILL BE A BIG BUST. From Sal, of White Plains, N.Y.: "Quick question for you, Peter: Will Rex Ryan, who worked wonders with talented defensive players in Baltimore, be able to coax ANYTHING out of Vernon Gholston this season?"
If anyone can, it's Ryan. I don't think Gholston will be invisible this year, but the Jets drafted him to be an impact player in their defense for a decade, and I can tell you the staff that coached him last year saw next to nothing in him -- and saw very little of the drive a great player needs in order to succeed.
VERY GOOD QUESTION. From Das, of Seattle: "I also believe Mike Vick will and probably should get another chance to play in the NFL. However, which team is going to face the scrutiny of its fan base by signing Vick? Maybe the Cowboys, since Jerry Jones seems to like wearing the "black hat"? What other teams would take on Vick's baggage and the circus-like atmosphere which would surely follow?"
I'll give you three: Oakland, Dallas and Washington. They all have owners with spines and owners who will view signing Vick in terms of how he can help the team and will worry about the consequences later.
FAVRE IS AT FAULT. From Thad, of Dallas: "So, let me get this straight -- the Packers bend over backward for Brett's every whim during his tenure (not attending the offseason program, dealing with the annual retirement speculation, and so on) and decide to give the heir apparent a shot at winning the job. Brett can't stand the competition (after RETIRING) so he throws a tantrum and whines his way out of Packer-land to the J-E-T-S because they're the only team willing to take the prima donna. But somehow it's all the Pack's fault and Crybaby Brett wants to 'stick it' to Ted Thompson? I don't get why people look up to and continue to glorify this whiny, pompous guy. He should be eternally grateful for the way the Packers and Wisconsin treated him during his career. What a pain. The Packer fans should be grateful he's gone.''
Many are, judging from the mail I've gotten in the past 24 hours.
YOU GO GIRL. From Steve, of San Francisco: "Not so much a question but a huge pat on the back for acknowledging and supporting Selena Roberts for her work in bringing to light A-Rod's steroid use. It seems as if it is OK for athletes to lie and blame, but when the truth is told, it is always someone else who is in the wrong. Man-up A-Rod and all the other steroid abusers, it is time to admit to wrong-doing and hopefully then, we can start believing in our professional athletes again!''
I'm sure Selena, and journalists everywhere, appreciate your plaudits.