There has been a lot of talk on both the blogosphere and amongst mainstream media outlets about how Fred Taylor is one of the most underrated running backs in NFL history (though if everyone deems him underrated, doesn't he then become "rated"). Anyway, I was listening to WFUV on my commute home and on came the Bill Withers' tune "Lovely Day". I started thinking about how underrated Withers is an artist and viola! Fred Taylor is the NFL version of Bill Withers...or is Bill Withers the music industry's version of Fred Taylor.
Withers had four legitimate hits, "Ain't No Sunshine", "Lean on Me", the aforementioned "Lovely Day", and "Just the Two of Us", spanning 10 years. "Ain't No Sunshine", "Lean on Me", and "Just the Two of Us" were all Top 5 hits. He has been sampled and covered countless times by countless artists (though I'm hesitant to label Better Than Ezra as artists). He's even won a few Grammy awards. Yet despite all his success I've never known anyone who owns a Bill Withers CD or seen him concert. I've never heard one person, critic or laymen, list Withers as one of his favorite artists or even refer to Withers in hushed accoladed tones. And this isn't just a generational thing as Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and Marvin Gaye are household names amongst Generation Y. Withers however, for whatever reason, fell through the cracks.
While Withers achieved success and was summarily forgetten, Taylor has had an impressive career with little to no fan fare or recognition. Perhaps, it's because he plays in that hellhole known as Jacksonville, or his groin has become a Monica Lewinsky-esque punchline, or that he's screwed many a fantasy team because he didn't get goal line carries. Regardless, Taylor has put together a very nice career. I won't rattle off all of his statistical accomplishments, but he has rushed for over 1,000 yards six times in 9 seasons and is on pace for his 7th in 10. This season included, he has averaged over 4.5 yards/attempt 8 of his 10 years in the league. His 10,457 rushing yards puts him dangerously close to OJ Simpson, but not as dangerously close as Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were. (Too soon?). But also like Withers, Taylor has also fallen through the cracks. He's only made one Pro Bowl. You never hear Taylor mentioned in any discussion about top backs in the league over the past decade. I doubt a Taylor jersey has ever been sold outside the "greater" Jacksonville area. You hardly ever see Fred Taylor on the promos for an upcoming Jacksonville prime time game. It was Brunell, then it was Leftwich, then Jones-Drew, but not Taylor. He is kind of a like a poor man's Curtis Martin in that no one realizes how good he is until they take a look at his stats.
I don't know how to wrap up this post.