Monday, November 4, 2013
Sean Taylor's death still resonates
By John Keim
The trial of his shooter is over (four other men were charged in the case and three await trial), which can’t bring a whole lot of joy and relief to anyone who was close to late Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. Closure, maybe, but even that will be tough. Taylor is still gone. His daughter will still grow up without her dad and a son will never return to see his parents.
That’s the saddest part, of course. That won’t be forgotten.
Former Redskins safety Sean Taylor was shot and killed in a 2007 burglary of his home. On Monday, Eric Rivera Jr. was convicted of second-degree murder, six years after Taylor's death.
The media did not get to know Taylor that well during his time in Washington; he allowed some people in, but rarely revealed much of himself. You had to earn his trust, something even the coaches discovered. Then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams spoke of this often, before and after Taylor’s death.
Was there real growth in Taylor during his four seasons there? Teammates I spoke to at the time said yes. One of them said his opinion of Taylor changed because he saw a young kid maturing. No players are 100-percent beloved, and everyone has critics. Still, players I trust recalled a kid they saw evolving. They knew him better.
For myself, I didn't know Taylor all that well. In all honesty, for most of us, he was the moody, young kid we were trying to get to know, but every time a corner was turned, another obstacle emerged. In time, I thought, he’ll come around. He was getting closer. It takes time for some.
But from a football perspective, I knew him well. And his death still haunts the franchise at the safety position. They've had plenty of time to recover, from a football point of view; it’s hard to find a similar talent, but that doesn't mean they've done a good job in doing so. They've made too many poor decisions here, and that haunts them as well. You can only blame his death for so long. But had Taylor lived, he would have been in his 10th season, probably with a handful of Pro Bowls on his resume and, assuming good health, several more years to go.
Taylor was playing at an elite level in 2007, prior to his knee injury and murder. He could move like few other safeties, allowing the Redskins to disguise coverages longer. For example, he would be over a slot receiver on the left side only to drop to a Cover 2 on the other side. I haven’t seen that since.
He would have been the perfect safety for how the NFL has evolved, too. When offenses go to empty sets, if you have a safety who can run like Taylor and cover like a corner, then you can stay with your base defense and not limit your calls. His speed and aggressiveness would have been a good foil to help defend the read option, too. A corner blitz from the numbers? Go ahead; Taylor could get to the receiver in a hurry. After Taylor died, they had to move rookie LaRon Landry to free safety; he's better at strong but could get away playing free.
It’s too bad NFL.com did not offer the All-22 coaches film when Taylor played, to see how much ground he covered and to see the multitude of ways the Redskins used him to disguise coverages. It would have been revealing.
Taylor played with a passion few have for the sport. He left behind a legacy with his play. He also left behind a lifetime of what-ifs for anyone who watched him.