Whenever a player bursts onto the scene in any professional sport with immediate impact, you can pretty much bet comparisons to an all-time great are sure to follow. After 19 NFL regular season games, we’ve reached this point for Dallas Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons. Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor is the highest bar for a linebacker to achieve on the field. And that’s the level some believe Parsons is approaching, not even halfway through his second campaign.
It is undeniable that Parsons is a beast, but whenever so many people simultaneously make this type of comparison, it should cause pause. It’s nothing against Parsons, but we see it all the time.
JJ Watt was supposed to be the next big thing in the evolution of pass rushers in the early 2010s, and he was for a few years. Watt recorded 20.5 sacks in 2012 for Houston, then did it again in 2014. Watt was selected to the All-Pro team and Pro Bowl in four of his first five seasons. He also won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2014 and 2015.
Unfortunately, the injury bug took hold of Watt, and he made a Pro Bowl and All-Pro team for 16 years. He is undoubtedly an all-time great, but Watt’s career certainly took a detour. unexpected. He won’t even be considered the greatest defensive player of his generation. That honor goes to Aaron Donald, considered by many to be the best inside defensive lineman in league history. Watt and Donald mainly play in different positions on the D-line but if we talk about overall achievement and impact on the defensive side of the ball, it’s Donald without a doubt.
What Parsons has done so far is amazing. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year, All-Pro and a Pro Bowl selection last season. All Taylor did was his rookie year, but even went one step further than Parsons by winning the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in his freshman season. Taylor would go on to win two more DPOY awards and be named the NFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 1986.
Yes, a defensive player won the MVP award. LT won the award in a year where Dan Marino launched 44 hit passes and over 4,700 yards. No other QB exceeded 25 touchdowns, and only one other threw for 4,000 yards in 1986. That Taylor won that MVP over Marino that year, when QBs typically didn’t post those numbers, is impressive. Taylor is also a first round Hall of fame.
That’s the kind of dominance Parsons faces over Taylor. We often hear coaches and executives talk about the importance of finding a good left tackle to protect the blind side of QBs. LT is the reason the left tackle position has become so coveted. After he broke Joe Theisman’s leg in 1985, teams realized the importance of protecting their blind QBs.
This is in no way to diminish what Parsons has achieved so far in his professional career. But this constant race to crown someone the next is always funny. Everyone wants to pretend they were “the first” to say this or that. But too often we go straight to the top when it is not yet justified.
Some of the talking heads in the sports media universe have tempered their hype of Parsons and moved down the list a bit, saying he reminds them of Von Miller. Another all-time pass throwing great who is also a future Hall of Famer is still going strong in Buffalo. That comparison might be a little more apt for Parsons at this point. It’s not a knock on anyone, but the LT comparison is a bit too much right now.
Taylor is not only considered the best defensive player in NFL history, but some have called him the best player the league has ever seen. Of all the great QBs, RBs and WRs we’ve seen, some people say LT (an LB) is the best football player ever. Parsons is terrific and might be the best defensive player in the league today. But let’s relax with all the LT talk and let this kid’s career unfold over the last 20 games.