Wilber Marshall: “I just don’t get” why my name was left off Hall’s list

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Bears

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.

marshallwilberredskinsHe 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)
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  1. Dan Barth
    January 1, 2017

    My parents lived next to Mr. Marshall in Ofallon Missouri.. I lived in Georgia… when it snowed he would shovel my parents driveway and walk… every time… A wonderful polite human being. I had no idea that the NFL has treated such a great football player soooo badly. They should be ashamed!! Dan Barth

  2. Aaron Bergman
    March 6, 2017

    This is a travesty, Frankly, he was far and away the best player on one of the greatest defenses ever.

    Think about it, Singletary was a slow, undersized over-acheiver, while Hampton was injury prone and Dent was nicknamed “the Colonial” by Buddy Ryan as, like the chicken franchise, he only did one thing, rush the passer, but did it very well indeed. Dent totally disregarded the run.
    All their roles were made possible by the amazingly versitile and freakishly athletic Marshall. He did it all, stacked the run, covered the tight ends, played the zone and blitzed with a frenzy. He was also, far and away the hardest single hitter I’ve ever seen play the game of football. The only one close was Ronnie Lott and he was a safety

    He also constantly covered for the afore-mentioned shortcomings mentioned above of his Hall of Fame teammates.

    I suspect that a lot of people he left with major headaches during his playing days are now in the hall and have a vote and are keeping him out due to his tendency to spear and flat out knock folks out with his vicious helmet to helmet hits.

    Hope cooler head prevails in the end and give this man his due. He is a cross between Bobbie Bell and Derrek Thomas in my mind and combines the best of both of these Hall of Famers.

  3. Robert Knowles
    December 7, 2017

    I watched #58 play for years. Wilbur was a versatile hitter as there was. And an iron man at his position. He was not the loud mouth or flashy player that was LT. And I think this is what is hurting his chances. But Wilbur Marshal not in the Hall, then why have it. He played hard, hurt, very down and was champion.

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