Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jim Marshall

For the last two years, and the last several days in particular, a lot of the sports media has been commenting on the ongoing Brett Favre saga. Brett has made 297 consecutive starts. After suffering a sprained shoulder on a tackle on the third play of this past Sunday's Minnesota game against the Buffalo Bills, his status is in question for Sunday's game.

Will Brett make consecutive start number 298 this coming Sunday against the New York Giants seems to be one of the questions of the week. But I would argue that it isn't the most impressive streak in the history of the NFL.

Punter Jeff Feagles, whose 22 year career spanned the Patriots, Eagles, Cardinals, Seahawks and Giants, played in 352 consecutive games, though he isn't at the top of my list either.

Who is? Defensive end Jim Marshall. Jim Marshall played 20 seasons from 1960 thru 1979. The 1960 season was with Cleveland and the other 19 years he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Jim Marshall played in 282 consecutive games in the NFL.

But how can I say that Marshall, who played less games than Favre, owns a more impressive streak?

I understand that Favre is a quarterback and he has been sacked 524 times over his entire 20 year career (301 total games). And while that sounds like a lot, it ends up being about 1.75 times per game. And when you factor in the number of times Brett Favre has been hit after a throw and knocked down, he may get touched 10 times a game.

I'm not trying to dismiss or disrespect or discount what Favre has done. It is amazing. Cornerbacks and linebackers hit him from behind without him seeing them coming. Defensive lineman fall and hit him below the knees. Any defensive player has looked to get a good hit on him after an interception or in a scramble for a fumble.

But Jim Marshall played defensive end for 282 straight games. Brett Favre may get hit 10 times per game. Jim Marshall was hit on every single play he played. Not only on certain plays or every other play. Every play Jim Marshall played, he was lined up across from the line of scrimmage with an offensive lineman whose sole purpose was to prevent Jim from reaching his quarterback.

And Jim Marshall played in an era where opponents were able to get away with a lot more. Hands to the face, blows to the head, diving at knees. So to think that Jim Marshall never missed a start in 20 seasons isn't remarkable. It is unbelieveable.

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