The NFL Goat Debate: Lawrence Taylor vs. Reggie White

Casey Sully

There are a couple players in the NFL right now that might give Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White a run for their money. TJ Watt and Myles Garrett have both put up huge numbers, and the NFL is now a passing league – which means more opportunities for sacks. However, Taylor and White are gold standard pass rushers and both deserve their spots in Canton. Who comes out on top in this battle of two GOATs?

Stats

Sacks have only been an officially recorded stat since 1982, but historians have gone back and tallied previous sack totals from seasons before 1982. Unfortunately, that’s not true for total tackles. Lawrence Taylor piled up 142 sacks through his 13-year career with the New York Giants. That gave him an average of 0.77 sacks per game. His 142 sacks place him at 9th on the all-time sack list. Taylor played linebacker and would also drop into coverage. He managed to get his hands on nine interceptions with two of those going back for touchdowns. There were few players more fearsome than Taylor in his prime.

Lawrence Taylor vs. Reggie White: Taylor could rush the passer as well as drop into coverage

Reggie White on the other hand, racked up 198 sacks over 15 years in the NFL with the Eagles, Packers, and Panthers. He played in 232 games versus Taylor’s 184, which gave him an average of 0.85 sacks per game. His 198 sacks also puts him at 2nd all-time behind only Bruce Smith. White has the added benefit of his tackles having been recorded. He attained 1,111 tackles, but was used almost exclusively as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt. As a result, he had only three interceptions in his career.

Lawrence Taylor vs. Reggie White: White was a pure defensive end and rarely dropped into coverage

Edge: Reggie White

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Awards

Both Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White have packed their trophy cases. They were the most dominant players during the 80s and 90s. What’s more, Taylor and White overlapped during for a few years and were going head-to-head for the season sack title and defensive player of the year. Lawrence Taylor was the league-leader in sacks in 1986, but Reggie White took the crown in both 1987 and 1988 when he was with the Eagles.

Lawrence Taylor was so dominant early on that he not only won defensive rookie of the year, but he was also voted as the defensive player of the year that same season. Taylor also won the MVP award in 1986. A defensive player has not won the award since.

Lawrence TaylorReggie White
Sack Titles12
Pro Bowls1013
Super Bowls21
MVP10
All-Pro88
Defensive Player of the Year32
Lawrence Taylor vs. Reggie White: Both pass rushers stocked their trophy cases

Edge: Lawrence Taylor

Playoffs

Both White and Taylor got rings, but you want your stud pass rushers to make big plays in big moments. The stage doesn’t get much bigger than the playoffs. Lawrence Taylor played in 15 playoff games, but was relatively quiet on the big stage. He tallied 8.5 sacks which gave him an average of 0.56 sacks per game. That is much lower than his regular season average.

Reggie White was able to accumulate 12 sacks over 19 playoff games for an average of 0.63 sacks per playoff game. Again, much lower than his regular season average.

White and Taylor both played in two Super Bowls. White won one and Taylor won two. However, Lawrence Taylor recorded zero sacks in his two Super Bowl appearances. Reggie white, on the other hand, recorded three sacks against the New England Patriots in 1997 in a win. He did not record any sacks in 1998 when the Packers played the Broncos. Overall, two of the best pass rushers of all time left a little to be desired in the post-season.

Edge: Reggie White

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Final Thoughts

Both Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor were dominant pass rushers in the 80s and 90s. Both won Super Bowls and had numerous individual awards. While Taylor may have had a more dominant peak with his MVP year, White stood the test of time and averaged more sacks over more games while coming up big on the biggest stage.

Winner: Reggie White

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