Not where L.T. is concerned.
“Now, wait a minute. We’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now,” Belichick said. “Yeah, I’m not putting anybody in Lawrence Taylor’s class, so [huge pause] you can put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players now, but we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor.”
He might as well have said, “Playoffs? Playoffs???” in his best Jim Mora impression. Taylor echoed his former coordinator on social media, tweeting, “What he said!!!!”
Belichick’s relationship with Taylor was special, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t complimentary to Mack. He just wasn’t that complimentary.
“He gets after everybody. He’s a very disruptive player, so he turns it over on sacks, strip-sacks, fumbles, tipped balls, interceptions,” Belichick said of Mack. “He’s a really strong run player, he’s a good pass rusher, he’s got speed, he’s got power. He’s very aware and instinctive. So, yeah, he does more than sack the quarterback — he knocks the ball away from him, but he knocks it off running backs, too. He’s tough.”
Given the length and introspection of his answer, it’s clear that Belichick does like what he sees from Mack. As for comparisons, it’s probably a little early. At 27, Mack has 246 total tackles and 45.5 sacks through five seasons. Taylor finished his career with 132.5 sacks, a stat that wasn’t official pre-Taylor (he unofficially had 9.5 as a rookie), and also won an MVP award. In addition, he entered folklore by changing the way left tackle was played, as Michael Lewis memorably described in “The Blind Side.” After Taylor’s rise, the left tackle’s job increasingly focused on protecting star quarterbacks like Joe Theismann, whose leg Taylor accidentally broke in a “Monday Night Football” game.
Belichick hasn’t always shied away from comparing Taylor to modern stars, though. Last year, he couldn’t say enough about the Texans' J.J. Watt, who has 329 total tackles and 83 sacks through eight seasons (two of which were shortened by injury).
“Motor, effort, strength, quickness, instincts, the ability to make game-changing plays at critical times in the game,” Belichick said of Watt and Taylor. “Knowing when the big play — critical third-down or fourth-quarter play or red-area play — knowing those critical plays in the game. As good as Taylor would play all game, that was the time when he would play at his best.”
“He wins with his quickness in the pass rush,” Belichick said. “He’s long, hard to throw over, hard to block in the running game because of his length, strength and technique. With all that being said, probably the most important, impressive thing is his motor — plays hard every snap. There’s never a play off with him. He makes plays in pursuit, down the field, screen passes, ball thrown to receivers — he’s hustling, making plays 15, 20 yards down field.
“You just don’t see those plays from hardly anybody, but especially guys that are his size and that play as much as he does. He plays everywhere across the board — plays outside, plays inside. He’s effective everywhere. He’s a tough matchup on everybody.”