The first half of the decade saw the Philadelphia Eagles enjoy a run of dominance in the NFC, and Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor were much of the reason why.
When Ray Rhodes took over for Rich Kotite as head coach in 1995, a new era was ushered in that was warmly welcomed by the Philly faithful. Part of the change came via a string of fairly underrated drafts. In his first, Rhodes drafted a six-foot three-inch cornerback from Notre Dame named Bobby Taylor.
At 216 pounds, Taylor would be seen as a bigger cornerback by today’s standards, and his size was his advantage back in the late nineties and early 2000s. Unfortunately, Mark McMillan was on the other side. In other words, the Eagles were going to need to upgrade the position, and Taylor would need a partner.
Though it’s a staple of today’s offseason, there were no unrestricted free agents until 1993. The concept was wildly exciting, and Rhodes took full advantage in 1995, bringing in a myriad of new starters. That included a few from his old stomping grounds, the San Francisco 49ers. The next year, in 1996, the team signed a former seventh overall pick of the Miami Dolphins, cornerback Troy Vincent.
By the time Andy Reid came along, he inherited two corners that were both over six-foot-tall, and in the draft, during the second round, he found a little old free safety by the name of Brian Dawkins. Just like that, Philly’s secondary was in business.
Those Eagles defenses of the early 2000s, led by legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, were ferocious. They were a blitz-happy bunch that, with Taylor and Vincent as the corners, helped the team get to three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances. Unfortunately, they’d lose all three. A Super Bowl berth wouldn’t come until their fourth attempt).
What made Taylor and Vincent so special was the fact that they could take over, and win games by themselves. For example, in the 2002 Divisional Round matchup against a white-hot Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons, Taylor intercepted a Vick pass and took it into the end zone in the first quarter (pictured above). That set the tone for the game and was the only touchdown scored in the 20-6 victory, save for a garbage-time touchdown catch by James Thrash.
With Vincent being a five-time Pro Bowler from 1999-2003 and a First-team All-Pro in 2002, and with Taylor joining him in the Pro Bowl in 2002, it’s easy to see why they were a special group. You also have to consider the revolving door of strong safeties they’ve played with. No one would confuse any of them with being Hall of Famers (Mike Zordich, Tim Hauk, Damon Moore, and Blaine Bishop).