Friday, January 27, 2023

Ken Riley's Imminent Hall of Fame Induction May Bode Well for Jim Marshall's Chances

 By John Turney 
A few days prior to the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, Ken Riley's name will almost certainly be among those announced as part of the Class of 2023 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that is unless that is the full committee rejects Riley's nomination which emerged from Hall's Senior committee process. And there is almost zero chance of that happening. That has only happened a few times and this, almost assuredly won't be one of them. At least we hope not. 

The basis for Ken Riley's inclusion will be that he's tied for fifth all-time in interceptions with 65 and that is the most ever for a cornerback. Yes, Hall of Famer Night Train Lane has 68 picks and he was mostly a cornerback but in 1954 when he had ten interceptions he played far more safety than corner (called a defensive halfback in the verbiage of the era) so for his career, he had fewer than 65 interceptions playing outside in the secondary than Riley. But that is a story for a different day.

Riley did garner some post-season honors, he's not totally lacking in that category or "box" as some voters may call it. He was First-team All-Pro in 1983 and was Second-team All-Pro in 1975 and 1976 as well as Second-team All-AFC selection in 1981. He was never voted to a Pro Bowl. However, that is on the light side for a Hall of Famer. 

The average Hall of Fame corner was a First-team All-Pro just under five times and a Pro Bowler just under eight times. That matters because post-season honors, historically, have been a major part of non-skills players (linemen, linebackers, secondary) Hall of Fame "resumes" if you will.

Riley's induction will change that a good deal. Dick LeBeau's career was similar to Riley's but his candidacy was considered to be a combination of his playing career and his coaching career. Riley's induction will be solely as a player.

How does this affect Jim Marshall

Well, his case is similar in that it would also be built more on statistics and longevity than post-season honors that have historically been looked at by voters as vital Hall of Fame criteria. In fact, it is what has kept him out for so long. His fellow linemates Alan Page and Carl Eller, Hall of Famers both were many times All-Pro and many times Pro Bowlers in addition to checking the longevity box and some statistical boxes.

Marshall, a longtime Minnesota Viking defensive end who is a big part of NFL lore was also not a much-decorated player in terms of All-Pros and Pro Bowls. he was more of a legend in terms of his consecutive games played streak which held from 1979 until  2005 when a non-position player, Jeff Feagles, a punter, broke it. In 2009 quarterback Brett Favre surpassed it for position players.

In addition, Marshall recovered 30 fumbles in his career, the most defensive recoveries in NFL history. 

Those two things are the bulk of Marshall's case for the Hall of Fame. Recently, sack totals have been published by Pro Football Reference and they show that marshall had 130.5 in his 20-year career.

Marshall was Second-team All-Pro in 1964, 68, and 69 and Second-team All-NFC in 1971. he was a Pro Bowler in 1968 and 1969. So he received post-season honors in four seasons, the same as Riley and they were similar sans the First-team All-Pro nod Riley got in his final season—Marshall never was First-team All-Pro.

No longer can anyone argue that Marshall's career does not measure up to Hall of Fame standards in terms of All-Pros, etc. since Riley's career is more-or-less the same and a new precedent is soon to be set.

Vikings fans can then buttress Marshall's case with a comparative analysis between the two and that could shed some new light on his situation which can only help. If it's fair for Riley's case should be fair for Marshall's.

We shall see if Riley's induction changes the dynamics of what a Hall of Fame player is. It just might.

1 comment:

  1. From Brian wolf ...

    Even if Marshall were to get in, it probably wont be until after 2025, with hopefully nine players going in. Is he really a better candidate than Harvey Martin, Cedrick Hardman, Gene Brito or Jim Katcavage?

    Yes, he helped his team in postseason win four NFC Championships but really, three linemen from the same team? Thats asking alot ...

    People will feel the bar will be set lower with Riley making it but at some point, the voters still have to address the deserving players before 1960 ...