The announcement begs this question: "Where is Jim Marshall?" Until punter Jeff Feagles – not a "real" player if you ask most old-school NFLers – broke his record in 2005, Marshall held the record for consecutive games played with 282. In 20 full seasons in the NFL, he never missed a game. He recorded 127 sacks and played in two Pro Bowls. He also holds the near-unbreakable record of 29 career fumble recoveries – a mark that has already stood for almost 30 years.
Humphrey is a fellow defensive end who went to six Pro Bowls and is deserving of consideration, part of a group of many worthy DEs that have been considered and enshrined in recent years. But, the same rationale that said Cris Carter had to wait until Art Monk got in the Hall should also apply here. Humphrey's NFL career ended two years after Marshall's but he received the nod anyway, joining Hayes, who was also nominated by the committee in 2004.
With no disrespect directed to the memory of Hayes, who died in 2002, in 11 NFL seasons, he had just 371 receptions – more than 600 less than near-miss 2008 Hall of Famer Cris Carter, more than 200 less than Randy Moss had in seven seasons with the Vikings and less than former Vikings Anthony Carter, Jake Reed and Sammy White. A converted Olympic track star, Hayes was a new breed of NFL wide receiver. He averaged 20 yards per reception for his career, but averaged less than three catches a game during his 11 seasons. He topped 50 catches just twice and didn't have a 1,000-yard season after his second year. Perhaps more importantly, of his 11 years, he managed to play in all 14 games just three times.
Hayes' inclusion for Hall of Fame consideration clearly is based on his average-per-catch and lofty touchdown numbers – topping 10 TDs in five of his first six seasons. In many respects, he was a specialist who ran fast, ran deep and caught touchdowns. If that is the criteria employed, why not Marshall? His lack of inclusion in the Hall of Fame is tantamount to saying Cal Ripken should be in baseball's hall because his batting average wasn't high enough or his home run totals should have been higher. He was the ironman of his sport and Marshall is the same. People speak in such glowing terms of Brett Favre's consecutive-game accomplishments. In order to surpass Marshall's streak, he would have to play into the 12th game of the 2009 season.
The demands on defensive ends in the NFL are incredible. With chop blocks and constant mauling with larger offensive tackles, what Marshall accomplished was amazing. He played professional football for 20 years – almost twice as long as Hayes – was a starter in every game he ever played, was a key piece to one of the most dominant front fours in league history and played at a high level throughout.
It's been a shame that Marshall has been denied entrance into the Hall of Fame over the last 20 years. If the intent is to honor the players that exemplified excellence on the field, Marshall is almost without peer. He was the Iron Horse of the NFL. Eventually, Marshall will be rewarded for his service to the league and his distinguished career. In a year where Cris Carter and Randall McDaniel will both get serious consideration for induction, it's a shame that Marshall can't potentially go in with them. They've only been snubbed for a year or two, respectively. Marshall has been snubbed for almost 30 years and it's time to rectify that error.