Who’s the best DE not in the Hall of Fame?

Simeon Rice photo courtesy Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(Simeon Rice photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
(Jim Marshall photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)

Talk of Fame Network

The NFL’s 49th and 51st all-time sackers are in the Hall of Fame. One hundred-plus career sacks punched tickets to Canton for Charles Haley and Andre Tippett.

But the NFL’s 22nd, 31st and 40th all-time sackers remain without busts. Jim Marshall with his 127 career sacks, Simeon Rice with his 122 and Harvey Martin with his 115 can’t get past the front steps of the Hall in the election process.

So that’s the topic of our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll – who’s the best defensive end not in the Hall of Fame? We’re giving you six quality options, including three all-decade selections:

L.C. Greenwood. Pittsburgh’s vaunted Steel Curtain defense that helped win four Super Bowls in the 1970s sent four players to Canton: Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount. Greenwood has been a Hall-of-Fame finalist six times in his bid to join them but has been rebuffed all six times. He played 13 seasons, collected 82 sacks and went to six Pro Bowls. He set a Super Bowl record with four sacks of Roger Staubach in the 1976 game and was named to the 1970s’ NFL all-decade team.


(Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

Ed “Too Tall” Jones. The first overall pick of the 1974 NFL draft, Jones lived up to his draft-day promise. He played 15 seasons for the Cowboys and provided a stereo pass rush with Harvey Martin, collecting 106 career sacks. He led the Cowboys with 13 sacks in 1985, 10 in 1987 and 9 ½ in 1981. Jones also blocked nine kicks in his career, including seven field goals. He was voted to three Pro Bowls and also played in three Super Bowls, winning one.

Harvey Martin. The co-MVP of Super Bowl XII and a member of the 1970s’ NFL all-decade team. The NFL didn’t start counting sacks until 1982, which is a statistical injustice to Martin. His 23 sacks in 1977 are a franchise record for the Cowboys and would stand as the NFL record, except that the league acts as if sacks didn’t happen before 1982. Martin played 11 seasons and led the Cowboys in sacks in seven of them, including a 14-½-sack season in 1976 and a 12-sack effort in 1980. He was voted to four Pro Bowls and played in three Super Bowls, winning one.

Harvey Martin

(Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)

Jim Marshall. The NFL record-holder for games started by a defensive player. Marshall played 20 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and started 270 games. Only Brett Favre, Bruce Matthews and Jerry Rice started more. All are in the Hall of Fame. Marshall was a fixture at right end for the People People Eaters for two decades. That defense has already sent Carl Eller, Alan Page and Paul Krause to the Hall of Fame. Like Greenwood, Marshall has been a Hall-of-Fame finalist (once) but has been rebuffed. He set an NFL record with his 29 career fumble recoveries and was voted to two Pro Bowls.

Simeon Rice. The third overall pick of the 1996 draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Rice went on to become the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and its sack champion in 2002 with 15 ½. He moved on to Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2001 and became the final piece to a Super Bowl puzzle with his pass rush for that 2002 championship team.  Rice hit double figures in sacks eight times in his career, including a 16-½ sack effort in 1999, 15 in 2003 and 14 in 2005. Despite his gaudy numbers, Rice was voted to only three Pro Bowls in his career.

Ed Sprinkle. A member of the 1940s’ NFL all-decade team. Back when Sprinkle was playing, the NFL wasn’t even counting tackles, much less sacks. Yet Hall-of-Famer George Halas, his coach with the Chicago Bears who spent six decades in the NFL in every capacity from player through owner, called Sprinkle “the greatest pass rusher I’ve ever seen.” Collier Magazine also called him “the meanest man in pro football” in a 1950 cover story. So mean was Sprinkle that in the 1946 NFL title game he knocked two New York running backs out of the game with injuries and broke the nose of quarterback Frank Filchock. The Pro Bowl began in 1950, and Sprinkle played in the first four games.

Sprinkle, Ed

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Bears)

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  1. Rob
    May 4, 2016

    Shouldn’t Jason Taylor be a part of this group?

  2. Bear fan Bob
    May 4, 2016

    Ed sprinkle he showed them all what the position was about

  3. bachslunch
    May 4, 2016

    Jason Taylor will be eligible for the first time this upcoming year. I think both Gene Brito and Mark Gastineau have notably better arguments than everyone on this poll except for L.C. Greenwood, and these are the only three DEs who have a solid HoF argument.

  4. bachslunch
    May 5, 2016

    Postseason honors numbers for all these folks: Greenwood (2/6/70s), Brito (4/5/none), Gastineau (4/5/none), Jones (3/3/none), Sprinkle (2/4/40s), Martin (1/4/70s), Marshall (0/2/none). More or less how I’d rank them in HoF worth. Brito’s career arc is kind of interesting, with the front of his career shortened by military service obligations and being forced to retire because he contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease which would kill him four years later — and he likely would have brought out ‘Skins fan voters if he were a voting choice (and is at least a former Washington player I can get behind enthusiastically).

  5. Jeff
    May 5, 2016

    I agree. Washington fan here – grew up in the 80s so Brito was long before my time but my dad was familiar with him which is how I learned about him (he thought he’d be in the HOF had he had a longer career and/or played on better teams). I also think that most of the guys on this list don’t quite cut it for me, though I really like them all. Sprinkle is close, and I think Marshall has some strong arguments for (but many against). Overall, I gotta go with Greenwood here.

  6. bachslunch
    May 5, 2016

    Forgot to include Simeon Rice (2/3/none), who also doesn’t cut it for me. I’d rank him between Martin and Marshall.

  7. bachslunch
    May 6, 2016

    Forgot to mention a few old AFL players who are every bit as good as most players in this poll. Earl Faison (4/5/none) is arguably as HoF deserving as Gaatineau. Tombstone Jackson (3/3/allAFL) was a big favorite of Dr. Z and I’d rank him at least as deserving as Too Tall Jones. Both players had extremely short but high quality careers. Ron McDole (4/2/allAFL) is probably also about as deserving as Too Tall, and both Larry Eisenhauer (4/4/none) and Gerry Philbin (2/2/allAFL) are at least noteworthy. Jeff: Gene Brito’s career actually isn’t all that short by pre-60s standards (9 years), plus he lost time at both ends of his career to military service (front) and ALS (back) — though he did play on bad teams and he wouldn’t be th first player whose HoF case suffered from it (see Billy Howton for another example).

  8. Rasputin
    May 6, 2016

    Too Tall’s pass bat downs were a big deal the way JJ Watt’s have been in this era. In general he was more physically imposing than most of these other guys, and his presence was felt to a much a greater degree than a glance at sack totals would indicate, impacting the run, the pass, and which direction offenses felt they could even try to execute plays.

  9. jonathan stern
    August 6, 2016

    Al Baker is another name

    LC Greenwood
    Harvey Martin
    Al Baker
    Too Tall Jones
    Clyde Simmons

    All of them belong in the HOF

  10. Johnny Perkins
    October 7, 2017

    Jones and Greenwood certainly belong in the hall of fame…not just pass rushers but also run stoppers…very strong presence on the field..

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