The Washington Redskins are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. With over 80 years of history and 5 NFL Championships, the Redskins have seen a lot of great players come and go. To this day, only #33 (Sammy Baugh) is officially retired but outside of Steve Spurrier, #7 (Joe Theisman), #9 (Sonny Jurgensen), #28 (Darrell Green), #42 (Charley Taylor), #43 (Larry Brown), #44 (John Riggins), #49 (Bobby Mitchell), #65 (Dave Butz), #70 (Sam Huff), and #81 (Art Monk) will most likely never be issued again. So I ask, should #21 (Sean Taylor) be on that list?
My favorite current-generation player, Sean Taylor needs no introduction here. "Meast" was a freak athlete at safety and has become a player that nearly everyone at the position now tries to emulate which speaks not only about his impact on the Redskins, but also his impact on all of professional football. Unfortunately, as we all know, he was taken from this earth far too soon when he was shot during a break-in at his house in November of 2007. If it impacted you like it did me, you remember exactly where you were when you heard the fateful news. Typically, when you ask Redskins nation the aforementioned question, they answer with a resounding "YES! The number should be retired" . . . . . . but why?
In 3 1/2 years with the Redskins, Taylor tallied 299 tackles, 2 sacks, 34 passes defended, 12 INTs, and 8 forced fumbles. If he could have averaged those numbers for a 10-12 year career, he most likely would have been considered for the Hall of Fame five years after his retirement. Would he have spent his whole career with the Redskins though? Even with the typically free-spending Redskins, in the free agency era, there's no guarantee we could have afforded him or if he'd want to stay. Would he have stuck around during the Zorn era and bingo-gate? Would he have been a cap casualty due to the cap penalties enforced over the past two years? What about injuries? He was only home on the night of the break-in because of a knee injury. With his physical style, could he have stayed healthy enough to put up the numbers required of a retired jersey? These are just some of the questions that are rarely asked.
It's clear that Taylor's #21 has been "unofficially" retired not because of his overall stats, but his impact on the game and the tragic way his life ended. One could argue that Darrent Williams, a former 2nd round pick of the Denver Broncos, was killed in an equally tragic fashion. After Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting, his #27 jersey was "unofficially" retired. Two years later, Knowshon Moreno was drafted in the 1st round and received permission from Williams' mother to wear #27 in exchange for Moreno spending time at Darrent's charity/teen center. Is this something the Taylor family would allow? Could a player really ask the Taylor family for permission? Is that disrespectful? Which brings up another point; Sean Taylor didn't even wear #21 for his whole career. He wore #36 his rookie year. Does that make FB Darrel Young disrespectful? Taylor only got #21 after Fred Smoot signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings in 2005. That means Taylor only wore #21 for 2 1/2 years. Is that enough? Did Mike Nelms, Earnest Byner, or Terry Allen contribute more wearing the same number?
The Washington Redskins have been hell-bent on fixing their secondary which was ultimately their weakness this past year. EJ Biggers, DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo have all been signed or drafted this year in order to establish a presence that has been missing since Sean Taylor left us. David Amerson has already come forward saying, "No, I don't think anyone can touch #21 #BestSafetyEver." Would he say the same if he knew it was available? Would you mind seeing a #21 in our secondary again? Would it be right or would it be wrong? As I've pointed out, the reasons are less black and white and more a shade of grey but in the end, we probably won't see another #21 at FedEx Field except for in the crowd. Is that how it should be?