The 1985 Bears already have three members of their epic defense — Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary — in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In more than one opinion, another of that group is overdue for Hall of Fame recognition.
Wilber Marshall. Linebacker. “Pit Bull,” to his teammates. The single best individual player on that defense, in some of their minds.
And in Marshall’s.
Rick "Goose" Gosselin, himself a Hall of Fame sportswriter (and voter) who created the special-teams ranking system used by every NFL team and now hosts "Talk of Fame Radio," did a six-part series of "Insiders & Outsiders," looking at a handful of players inexplicably passed over in the 94 HOF candidates in the Class of 2017. Marshall was among those six.
"It amazes me," Goose wrote to me this week, "that he can’t even get on the preliminary ballot ... Too many deserving players have slipped through the cracks without ever having any discussion."
Among those, for example: Detroit Lions left tackle Lomas Brown, who Dent rated along with Jimbo Covert as the two best tackles he ever faced.
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But the Marshall case is particularly intriguing.
He was an Academic All-American, the Bears’ No. 1 pick in the 1984 draft and under whose skin legendary coordinator Buddy Ryan got by mercilessly calling "Stupid."
Marshall was not, academically or football-wise. And as far as whether he belongs in the Hall, "Hate to say it," he told Goose, "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 [Singletary] 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."
As Goose and fellow hosts and HOF voters Ron Borges and Clark Judge chronicle, Marshall more than learned it. Marshall went on to win a second Super Bowl ring with the 1991 Washington Redskins. He was selected to Pro Bowls at both strong-side and weak-side linebacker and was a member of nine top-10 defenses in the span of his 12-year career.
"I just don’t get it," Marshall said.