Justice came seven years late for Sean Taylor’s family, friends and fans. A Miami-Dade County jury found Jason Mitchell guilty of murder for Tailor’s death. Mitchell is the convicted ringleader of the gang that burgled Taylor’s home and fatally shot him when he confronted them in defense of his family.
News reports of this trial described details Taylor’s death more than the trial of Eric Rivera Jr. who is thought to be the actual triggerman. (A jury convicted Rivera of second-degree murder last year. He was sentenced to57-years.)
Taylor suffered a gunshot wound in the upper thigh outside his bedroom door. The bullet severed a femoral artery. Taylor bled out and died at his home.
But when news broke of the crime, it was filled with reports of efforts by EMTs on the scene and medical professionals at the hospital to revive him.
That offered hope for a hopeless situation. It was denial. Confirmation of Taylor’s death came the following morning. Baseless hope was crueler for all involved.
The press did a better job describing the relationship of Mitchell and Taylor. Taylor admitted Mitchell to his social circle. Taylor tried to mentor the young man in some fashion, even to paying him to help with yard work.
All that Mitchell saw was the chance to hustle someone who kept large sums of cash in his home. He failed in two attempts to loot the house. Taylor was in his home that night in part because of the first break-in. The gang did not know he would be there the night of their invasion.
Gruesome both for the nature of the death and the betrayal beneath it.
Two accused accomplices await their trial.
Change of destiny
Taylor’s premature death wreaked havoc on Joe Gibbs’ plan to revive the Redskins.
Gibbs fed us a line about the “back seven” of the Redskins defense with Taylor and LaRon Landry as centerpieces. The back seven, the secondary and 4-3 linebackers, was supposed to make quarterbacks hold the ball longer upsetting the timing of their offense.
It was counter-intuitive. Teams build front sevens to rush the passer to make him throw in a hurry. Gibbs was blowing smoke.
There is no doubt that the secondary was hugely improved with Taylor, who would also have lifted LaRon Landry’s (or, cough, Adam Archuleta’s) performance. Landry would have played his natural position at strong safety, though Gregg Williams would have had Taylor and Landry switch at strong and free safety to confuse quarterbacks.
That would have been fun to watch, but it was no guarantee of success. The Patriots in 2007 walloped the Redskins 52-7 and that was with Taylor, Landry, Shawn Springs, London Fletcher and Pierson Prioleau on the field. The back seven allowed Tom Brady to throw for three touchdowns and run for two more.
That’s not the profile of a budding Super Bowl defense. It might have been the basis of a playoff contender.
Taylor’s death triggered the emotional energy that fueled the Redskins playoff run led by Clinton Portis and Santana Moss. (Pay attention. This is part of the #RedskinsPride you hear about.)
The Redskins did not have the energy for a post-season run.
Nor did the emotionally drained Gibbs have the energy to stay with the team. He left the Redskins with a year remaining on his contract. Failure to prepare Vinny Cerrato and Daniel Snyder to run an NFL franchise without him remains Gibbs’ greatest failure.
Taylor’s death at the hands of punk-ass hoodlums hastened Gibbs departure from the team. The Redskins are 36-60 since Gibbs left.
Taylor’s death changed everything. It is still keenly felt around here both for the loss of the player and the loss of what might have been.