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There is perhaps no other pass rusher in the modern era of the NFL who has managed to become as revered across the league as DeMarcus Ware. His numbers speak for themselves, as he has led the league in sacks twice in his career, and is on pace to lead the league in sacks once again this season. In 2008, this included the first 20 sack season since the year that Michael Strahan broke Mark Gastineau’s sack record, yet Ware still fell short in the Defensive Player of the Year voting to his fellow speed rusher James Harrison.
Admittedly, this did not make DeMarcus Ware a huge snub by any means, since despite Ware clearly being the superior pass rusher, Harrison’s numbers seemed to suggest that he was simply the more complete player. Most would have argued that James Harrison was a better force against the run who also thrived in pass coverage allowing Dick LeBeau’s zone blitzing scheme to function well. However, it is not as if Ware has ever been any slouch against the run, or in pass coverage, especially this season. The debate over who deserved the DPOTY Award in 2008 can be laid to rest by now, but when evaluating how deserving DeMarcus Ware is of the award, one should let it sink in that the man has yet to win it a single time thus far.
This is actually quite remarkable when considering not only that most have accepted D-Ware as the premier pass rusher in the NFL, but also when considering what his potential legacy may be. Parallels can easily be drawn between Ware and Hall of Fame pass rush specialist Lawrence Taylor. Most fans who are savvy enough about football history know that LT was highly regarded as not only the NFL’s best pass rusher during his time, but also someone who would go down as the most feared defensive player that the NFL had ever seen.
Lawrence Taylor is an example of a player who had such an impact that he single-handedly changed the way the game was played. One notable example is the 2-point stance that offensive tackles often employ on pass plays. What many do not know is that this stance was originally intended to remedy the effect of having to block such a quick pass rusher with an amazing first step off the ball like Lawrence Taylor. The other example worth noting is the use of TEs to assist offensive tackles in protection. Joe Gibbs having his TEs motion to whichever side Taylor was on is perhaps the most famous example of this, but any instance of a TE aligning across from the defense’s best pass rusher is, in fact, a remnant of the LT era of the NFL. Given these innovations, even those who have never witnessed Lawrence Taylor firsthand can easily see how great he truly was.
The innovations that Lawrence Taylor was able to cause with his play allow him to lay claim to an impact that DeMarcus Ware will never have an opportunity to achieve. For this reason, Ware may have to settle for his career being considered inferior to Taylor’s no matter how many sacks he is able to rack up, but one should at least take into account the context of their respective eras. Obviously, Ware cannot be blamed for his inability to change the game as much as Taylor did since Ware did not have the opportunity induce the changes that were already made. What makes this especially significant is when one considers the effect that this may have had on Ware’s production in comparison to LT’s.
Since the aforementioned innovations were initiated as a direct response to Lawrence Taylor, he therefore had the luxury of not dealing with them at the beginning of his career. DeMarcus Ware, on the other hand, has had to deal with offensive tackles employing a two-point stance, as well as Tight Ends assisting these offensive tackles in pass protection since the beginning of his career. With this in mind, it can be speculated that had Ware played during Taylor’s era, his production could have easily matched that of Taylor, along with the possibility that the same exact pass protection innovations would have been made in response to him instead.
While it may seem utterly pointless to speculate about the careers of two players if they had played at different times, the fact that DeMarcus Ware is arguably this generation’s version of Lawrence Taylor is a scary thought. Most importantly, it makes it all the more perplexing that Ware has still yet to be crowned as Defensive Player of the Year. Given that he is the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, it would be a crime to not give him the award any time soon. If DeMarcus Ware is to be rightfully given his long overdue Defensive Player of the Year Award, it may as well be this season in which he leads the league in sacks once again, while also succeeding in all dimensions of the game.