Richmond Webb always understood his primary job during 11 seasons with the Miami Dolphins: Keep Dan Marino in one piece.
“You don’t want to be the guy who gets him hurt,’’ Webb told the Talk of Fame Network. “By the time I got to south Florida, I think he was in his seventh or eighth year, and he was already an icon. You don’t want to be remembered as the guy people say, ‘He’s the guy who got Dan Marino’s career cut short.’ That was something I used as motivation.’’
It certainly worked, both as health insurance for Marino and job insurance for Webb, who would play 11 years in Miami and two injury-plagued seasons with the Bengals before retiring. It was in Miami that he made his mark, going to more consecutive Pro Bowls (7) than any Dolphin in history, including the Hall-of-Fame quarterback he was hired to protect.
A four-time All-Pro and 1990 UPI Rookie of the Year, Webb was selected to the 1990s’ all-decade team in large measure for protecting Marino the way the Secret Service protects the President. A measure of his dominance is that in 14 games against the NFL’s all-time sack leader, Buffalo Bills’ defensive end Bruce Smith, Webb allowed only 3 ½ sacks.
Smith’s 200 career sacks would lead him to the Hall of Fame, but not with much help from Webb.
Yet if Richmond Webb had gotten his way at the Senior Bowl, he might never have played a down at left tackle, the offensive line’s most important position.
When Webb arrived in Mobile, Ala., to begin the week of heavily scouted Senior Bowl workouts, he understood this was a job fair. Here reputations are created or destroyed, and draft decisions are often made. So Webb asked his Senior Bowl head coach, Buddy Ryan, to let him play guard because he played the position for three years at Texas A&M before being switched to left tackle his senior season.
“I was more comfortable at guard,’’ Webb later explained. “You’re dealing with bigger guys inside. They’re more agile and quick on the outside. So your pass set has to be a lot firmer to keep the rushers on the outside to create room in the pocket. But Buddy said, ‘Nah. They want to see you playing left tackle.’ ’’
And play it he did.
Webb became the Dolphins’ first-round pick in 1990 and would start every game that season, beginning a run of 118 consecutive starts on a team that passed the ball 60 per cent of the time. That put immense pressure on Webb, but he was dominant for a decade and a large reason Miami finished in the top four in passing in seven of his first eight seasons and the top two four times.
For most of those seasons, Marino was among the least sacked quarterbacks in the game despite throwing the ball a record number of times. Yet despite a commanding presence at his position for a decade on arguably the most pass-oriented offense in football, Richmond Webb has yet to make it into the Hall-of-Fame debate in his 10 years of eligibility.
Worse, he failed even to make it onto the preliminary ballot of 94 players, an oversight difficult to fathom.
How does one of the four best tackles of his time never get Hall-of-Fame consideration? It beats him, which is something Bruce Smith couldn’t do.
“It’s been on before,’’ he said of missing the preliminary ballot last year. “I try not to focus on that because I’ve seen how it’s really impacted or affected a couple of guys who felt they were deserving to be in there. It kind of eats away at them.
“The way I look at it is: I think my career and my resume speak for themselves. I don’t understand the whole process and how it works, but that’s what kind of gives me confidence. I try not to focus on I should be here or I should be there.
“But if you mention some of the things throughout my career I definitely think I’m worthy. I just don’t know how to get on that list or what the process is or how they determine that. So I just try to keep it moving.’’
That’s the same approach he took to opposing pass rushers. Richmond Webb kept them moving, moving right around Marino, which is why he never had to worry about being known for getting the Hall-of-Fame quarterback hurt. Rather he should be known for having a Hall-of-Fame career himself, whether he ever gets to Canton or not.
“I know there are other guys who are deserving but who haven’t made it to the Hall of Fame,’’ Webb said modestly, “So, if it happens, good. If it doesn’t, I’m good. But in the back of my mind I know I played at that level.
“I know my resume speaks for itself. I don’t sit around and dwell on it and say, ‘Oh man I should have gotten in.’ I’m happy for all my brothers. I’m happy for each guy who makes that achievement. I think that’s the way to approach it, and that’s the way I always have.’’
If you think about it for a minute, isn’t that a Hall-of-Fame approach?