Talk of Fame Network
When you think of former linebacker Wilber Marshall, you think of the 1985 Chicago Bears. Marshall was one of three star linebackers on a defense -- Buddy Ryan's "46" – that was the backbone of a Super Bowl champion and one of the greatest in NFL history.
But Marshall played on another Super Bowl champion, the 1991 Washington Redskins, and he played on other top-10 defenses . In fact, he played on nine of them in a 12-year career, including one in Houston that ranked first against the run and another with the Jets that led the league vs. the pass.
He was a three-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro, an NFC Defensive Player of the Year and NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year. What he's not is a Hall-of-Fame member. In fact, Marshall has gone so unrecognized by Canton that his name didn’t appear on the preliminary list for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame's Class of 2017, and that makes no sense – to us or to Marshall.
"It's really hard when you see some of the guys who are on there," he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. "Carl Banks. We came out at the same time. Tedy Bruschi. None of those guys even made Linebacker of the Week or Linebacker of the Month, let alone Linebacker of the Year. Or Defensive Player of the Year. And it's like, 'What did I do?' I just don’t get it."
Marshall is not alone. He's one of six players left off the ballot that appeared on our just-completed "Insiders/Outsiders" series – a list that includes Neil Smith, Richmond Webb, Le Roi Glover, Jimmie Giles and Lomas Brown. All have the credentials to be discussed, yet none appeared on this year's preliminary list.
And when you think you belong in Canton – as Marshall does – that’s mystifying, especially when former teammates Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent are in ... and you can't even get on the ballot.
"Do you think you belong with them?" Marshall was asked.
"Hate to say it," he said, "but I do believe I should be there. I'm probably the only linebacker in history … that I know of … that played outside and inside linebacker (on the same Super Bowl unit). They had Mike sitting on the sidelines when I'm playing middle linebacker on third down. So I wasn’t just a rush guy, like the guys on the end that you see them go 90 percent of the time. Ten percent of the time they may drop. So I had a lot to learn."
Marshall has a point. He was a first-team All-Pro weakside linebacker with Chicago. Then, years later, he was a two-time All-Pro at strongside linebacker with Washington – a position, he believes, that is undervalued by the Hall because it cuts down on statistics like sacks.
"They want you to come off the corner," he said of the position. "I sacrificed to play middle linebacker, too, not just playing outside. I never walked off that field. I played both ways. Those guys get rests. And a lot of those guys played defensive end, and they changed to outside linebacker.
"So when you get their stats, there are two different stats there if you look at it. You're a defensive end, and then you move him to a 3-4 linebacker. That’s a big difference. You're rushing 90 percent of the time."
(Wilbur Marshall photos courtesy of the Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears)