Portrayed by: Kyle Chandler
Show: NBC’s Friday Night Lights
Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. Some of the best characters on TV are the parental figures of no relation in the form of a teacher or a coach. Through the good, bad, and ugly the characters that play a crucial role in shaping the lives of others and inspiring them to be the absolute best version of themselves possible. In the world of television, one of those characters is Friday Night Lights’ Eric Taylor. (Another is the inimitable George Feeny, and don’t even getting us started on the treasure that is Ted Lasso.)
Coach Eric Taylor is the kind of man whose means of communication aren’t always coated with pretty word, but rather resilience and boldness. While he’s most certainly an incredibly kind man, it’s his firmness cobbled with the loyalty and an inability to give up that’s helped inspire his family along with the Dillon Panthers.
In order to build strength, human beings need to be exposed to hard work and failure. While we need to be brought up through love, we also need to be reminded of the fact that life and everything we face, needs to be taken seriously. And Eric Taylor did just that with the kind strength that allowed everyone in his path to know that he’s been through enough to understand how a person could reach success.
Eric Taylor and The Road to Understanding
Coach Taylor’s ethics were that of a man whose wisdom was truly inimitable—he didn’t approach with gentleness because he believed in tough love coupled with sincerity. He wasn’t soft spoken, but he was also never unkind. He believed that even when covered in tears, a man was brave enough to give into the vulnerability and that bravery needed the push in the right direction.
Eric Taylor believed in the fact that human beings should take responsibility for their actions and he stood steadfast to the fact that wherever a person is in their life is due to the choices they’ve made and the paths they’ve taken. Coach Taylor understood that in life, a person’s strength came from remaining steadfast to the person they are and learning that the losses in life aren’t failures but rather proof of being.
“Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself.” Tragedy didn’t steer clear from Dillon, Texas—it struck hard in the very first episode, but Coach Taylor made it his mission to bring out the heroism in simple tasks. He made it his mission to have everyone understand that failure isn’t weakness as long as we push ourselves to get back up. Enduring the hardships didn’t tarnish strength as much as choosing to give up on the fact that there are bigger and better moments than what we are facing right now.
Coach Taylor also made it abundantly clear that competition should never be about actually winning but rather giving everything we’ve got. “Listen to me. I said you need to strive to better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the trying.”
So often in life people get wrapped up in competition and thereby, lose themselves to the battles and strains that loss in this form brings, but Coach Taylor made it his mission to have his football team try their absolute hardest because that’s where they’d learn most about life. He was never the type of coach that’d be disappointed in their loss if he saw that they gave everything they’ve got. He was never the kind of father that’d be disappointed in a mistake Julie made if he knew that she learned the lesson and tried her hardest be better.
His disappointment has often surfaced from seeing the absolute best in someone, but being saddened by the fact that they didn’t honor the greatest part within.
Coach Taylor’s goodness came from his ability to see the absolute best in everyone even when they couldn’t see it themselves. His goodness is reflected in his ability to understand just how gifted and special everyone is, and as a result, choosing to instill belief in them. And that’s what he did so remarkably well—he believed in those who crossed his path. He believed in the human race. He believed in his loved ones.
And Eric Taylor never once shied away from voicing that belief in the form of a general statement or a direct one. Whether it was the team as a whole, Tami, Julie, Matt Sarcasen at his life’s most difficult journey, or Tim Riggins when he began to fall through the cracks. He voiced his belief aloud to Smash Williams about the fact that he could do much bigger things in life than he imagines, and instill the same belief to Jason Street, noting that even though his life took a tragic turn, he is still destined for greatness.
“I’m a firm believer in you can do anything you put your mind to, and yourself, you, I believe you can do anything you put your mind to.” Coach Taylor understood that as much as a human being has people rooting for them, if they weren’t rooting for themselves, everything else would be empty words. And instilling belief in people allowed those in front of him to understand that there’s great strength in themselves.
“Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives… fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts… that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”
In all his resilient demeanor never once did Coach Taylor make it seem as though falling in life was a form of weakness and that’s beautifully established after the first episode when the very words above leave his mouth. None of us are safe from heartache. And when things go wrong, we have two choices—do we let it break us or do we rise from it? He believed that we should all rise, and he believed that because he knew that after they took the time to grieve, human beings had the strength within them to conquer anything in their path. He believed that pain and endurance strengthens while choosing to close off our hearts and give up on our potential weakens. And he was right.
Eric Taylor believed so fervently that he changed lives just by being himself. He changed lives through his honesty and the choice to remind people of what they needed to hear.
And in the end, he chose to follow his wife as she pursued her dreams with the firm belief that not only could she handle whatever obstacles were in her path, but the fact that she deserves to be her absolute happiest shining in the area she’s most passionate about. Husband goals, too—am I right?
Naturally no character is memorable without the actor who brings them to life and Kyle Chandler’s performance for five years was exemplary. Chandler brought the character to life with a full range of emotions baring it all through the eyes. You knew for a fact that he put 110% into it even if he didn’t feel like it. And that’s probably the one advice from Coach Taylor I follow most closely because in the delivery of that scene, Chandler makes it clear that if there’s one thing to be taken from this character, this is it.
We all go through moments in life where we just don’t feel like it—it’s a fact, but it’s in those moments where we have to push ourselves hardest because they define us most boldly. And I’m grateful for the fact that the quote comes to mind every time my brain tries to convince me to be desultory in whatever area is in question at the moment. Life is too precious not to give our absolute best and I’m a firm believer that Eric Taylor is still one of the greatest characters who’s graced our screens.