NFC South: Jim Taylor

I’m just glancing through the NFL’s official Record & Fact Book for 2012 and I stumbled up on an area that I think is worth discussing: retired numbers.

The NFC South has only eight of them. The Chicago Bears have 13 retired numbers. The San Francisco 49ers have 12 and the New York Giants have 11.

I realize the four NFC South teams haven’t been around as long as some of the storied franchises. But only one team has more than two numbers retired and two teams have only one.

Atlanta retired the numbers of Steve Bartkowski (No. 10), William Andrews (No. 31), Jeff Van Note (No. 57) and Tommy Nobis (No. 60).

New Orleans retired Jim Taylor’s No. 31 and Doug Atkins’ No. 81.

Carolina’s only retired number is Sam Mills’ No. 51 and Tampa Bay’s lone retired jersey is Lee Roy Selmon’s No. 63.

I think you could make a case that Atlanta should retire Deion Sanders' jersey, even though he wasn’t with the Falcons that long. He changed the game and put the Falcons on the map in Atlanta. I think New Orleans should have retired Mills’ jersey long ago. Mills spent more time and had a bigger impact in New Orleans than he did in Carolina. For that matter, I’d say the Saints should retire the numbers of Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf. They were, after all, good enough to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

I’m not sure Carolina has another realistic candidate right now. But John Kasay and Steve Smith should have their numbers retired the second they quit the game.

Tampa Bay? The Bucs weren’t exactly a dynasty in their early days. Some would make the case that Doug Williams should have his number retired even though his Tampa Bay career was relatively short. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon because Williams left the team’s personnel department on bad terms. He’s been passed over for the team’s Ring of Honor twice. Tampa Bay has some potential candidates on the horizon. I think you can at least make a case for Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Elbert Mack (I’m only kidding on Mack) to have their numbers retired. But when do you do that? I’m thinking you make those calls when you put those guys in the Ring of Honor.
When I got back to NFC South Blog headquarters and picked up a week’s worth of mail, there was something in there I was much happier to see than routine bills and advertisements. The NFL’s annual Kickoff Guide was waiting.

It’s prepared by the NFL’s media relations office and includes all sorts of information about the past, present and future. I’ll share some relevant bits and pieces with you over the next few weeks. One item I caught was a listing of retired numbers for each franchise.

The NFC South is comparatively light in this area because these teams didn’t even exist in the days of George Halas. For the record, there are only eight retired jerseys in the NFC South.

The guys who have earned that honor are Atlanta’s Steve Bartkowski (No. 10), William Andrews (No. 31), Jeff Van Note (No. 57) and Tommy Nobis (No. 60), Carolina’s Sam Mills (No. 51), New Orleans’ Jim Taylor (No. 31)and Doug Atkins (No. 81) and Tampa Bay's Lee Roy Selmon (No. 63).

Made one question pop into my mind “Who will be the next player for each franchise to get his number retired?’’ I’d like to hear your candidates, so discuss it below or send a note to my mailbag.

I’ll share my list and I’m going to make it really elite because I think only the greatest of the great should have their numbers retired:

Buccaneers: Derrick Brooks. No question on this one. This guy’s the best player in franchise history. He just needs to officially admit he’s retired, get over the fact the Bucs ended his career before he thought he was ready. The moment he does that, his jersey will be retired in glorious fashion. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brooks is the best player in NFC South history, although I think there's a quarterback in New Orleans, who has a chance to claim that honor in time.

Panthers: John Kasay. This guy’s been with the franchise since its start. No player has ever been closer to owner Jerry Richardson. Oh, by the way, Kasay also has been a pretty remarkable kicker and has done great things in the community.

Saints: Drew Brees. You can make cases for Willie Roaf and Morten Andersen and that could happen before Brees is even done playing. But I’d pretty much bet the farm that No. 9 will be retired the moment Brees is.

Falcons: Matt Ryan. Yeah, I’m projecting here as the quarterback enters the third year of his career. But I expect greatness for a long time. I’m sure I’ll hear some suggestions for Keith Brooking. He was a very good player for a long time and I respect that, but was Brooking ever truly dominant?