Washington Football

Redskins were right to retire Bobby Mitchell's jersey, is now the time for Sean Taylor?

Washington Football

The Redskins made an important - and long overdue - decision to retire Bobby Mitchell's jersey. Mitchell deserves the honor not just for his incredible play on the field but for the racial abuse he suffered as the organization's first black player in 1962. 

Mitchell passed away in April but will be honored with the official retirement of his No. 49 jersey as well as the lower bowl of FedEx Field bearing his name, replacing that of former racist team owner George Preston Marshall. This will be just the second jersey to be retired by the Redskins ever in the team's history. It's a big deal, and for Mitchell it should have happened decades ago. 

The question now becomes what other jersey numbers should the organization hang up. And for any fan under 40, the first player that jumps to mind is Sean Taylor. 

The fifth overall pick in 2004, Taylor became an immediate fan favorite in Washington for his aggressive play and elite athleticism. He could run, hit, cover and seemingly be everywhere at once. 

On a recent Sports Uncovered podcast delving into the life and death of Taylor, ESPN's Louis Riddick described the safety as someone that "could run like a deer, hit like a man truck. There was nothing he couldn’t do."

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Unfortunately Taylor's life was tragically cut short in 2007 when he was murdered at his home during a robbery. He died protecting his family from intruders, and even 12 years later, thousands of Redskins fans still show up wearing Taylor jerseys to FedEx Field. 

 

Let's be clear, Taylor does not have the resume of other Redskins players that might deserve their jersey retired.

Sonny Jurgensen, John Riggins and Darrell Green are all in the Hall of Fame and played their position better than almost anyone else. Doug Williams won a Super Bowl in Washington, and along the way became a cultural icon as the first black quarterback to ever hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 

Taylor isn't in the Hall of Fame, and he didn't win a Lombardi. 

Still, Taylor played at such an elite level that it seems like he would have gone to the Hall of Fame. That's not hyperbole. Plenty of his former teammates and opponents believe he belongs in Canton, or definitely would have made it there had he not been murdered. 

Retiring Taylor's jersey isn't about what he did in four seasons with the Redskins, even if the numbers are very impressive. 

Retiring Taylor's jersey would be about honoring the man and the player that he might have become.

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That memory shines bright for Redskins fans, particularly younger Redskins fans that have no context for the organization's glory days 30+ years ago. Taylor was at the center of the Redskins only playoff win this century, and he's undoubtedly been the team's best player in the FedEx Field era, even if the window was too short. 

Clinton Portis played with Taylor in college at the University of Miami, and again with the Redskins. Portis was also integral in the Redskins lone playoff win this century, way back in 2006, where Portis and Taylor scored the only two Redskins touchdowns in a 17-10 win over Tampa. 

Asked via text message if he believes the Redskins should retire Taylor's number, Portis replied, "Of course I do!"

Not all decisions need to be made with the weight of history. 

Some can just be made. 

Yes, other Redskins players have better resumes or cases to have their numbers retired. Those players, however, were not gunned down in the prime of their careers. 

Other players, deserving players, should also be considered for jersey retirement. Those articles are coming. But that doesn't mean Taylor's name can't be discussed first. 

Taylor means more to many people because he's gone. He can't show up for the annual Redskins alumni game. He can't comment about the team or show up for training camp practices. 

Taylor is gone, but his memory isn't. It will never be. Nobody has worn his number 21 jersey since he passed, but why not make it official and retire it for good. 

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