FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick had a lot of praise for Khalil Mack during his Wednesday morning news conference, but he wasn’t willing to declare the Chicago Bears star one of the greatest pass rushers of all time.
And the New England Patriots coach certainly wouldn’t put Mack in the same class as one of his all-time favorite pupils, Lawrence Taylor.
Here’s how the exchange played out:
Reporter: Bill, you’ve seen a lot of good pass rushers in your career, starting with Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White. Does Mack sort of rank up there as one of the better ones you’ve seen?
Belichick: “Wait a minute, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now. I’m not putting anybody in Lawrence Taylor’s class, so I’d put everybody down below that. That’s with a lot of respect to a lot of good players now, but we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor.”
That’s no slight on Mack, either. Belichick just adores Taylor, whom he coached as the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator in the 1980s and whom he once called “the best defensive player I ever coached, by a good margin.”
Asked during Super Bowl week this past January what makes Belichick smile, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady listed four things: Navy, lacrosse, Bon Jovi and Lawrence Taylor.
A Pro Football Hall of Famer, Taylor racked up 132 1/2 sacks in 13 seasons for the Giants — a career that included 10 Pro Bowl selections, eight first-team All-Pro nods. He recorded a career-high 20 1/2 sacks in 1986, the year he took home both Defensive Player of the Year and NFL MVP honors.
Taylor is one of just two defensive players ever to win NFL MVP — the other was Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page in 1971 — which should tell you all you need to know about how dominant he was in his era.
And while he’s no LT, Mack, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-Pro, might be the NFL’s best active edge rusher. Through five games this season, he has five sacks, four quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception for a touchdown.
“He gets after everybody,” said Belichick, whose team will visit Mack’s Bears this Sunday at Soldier Field. “He’s a very disruptive player. He turns it over on sacks, strip sacks, tipped balls, interceptions. He’s a really strong run (defender). He’s a good pass rusher. He’s got speed. He’s got power. He’s very aware and instinctive. He does more than sack the quarterback; he knocks the ball away from them. He knocks it off running backs, too. He’s tough.”
Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images