No. 1: Addressing the “No Playoff” narrative:
As it stands today, there have only been four Football Hall of Famers without a playoff appearance, and the Chicago Bears, ironically, have two of them in Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers. Joe Thomas figures to make that No. 5, and Brandon Marshall should be somewhere right behind.
It’s become kryptonite to Marshall’s legacy that he played in 179 games without a single postseason berth, but look deep enough, and you’ll find that a lot of that doesn’t necessarily fall on him. Team results be damned, he’s been as reliable as wide receivers come during make-or-break months. Consider how he compares to every wide receiver in NFL history in the month of December:
— 278 catches (No. 4 all-time)
— 3,445 yards (No. 8 all-time)
— 25 touchdowns (No. 7 all-time)
So, we’re absolutely talking about a player who deserves to be in the same sentence as many of the greats. And of the seven players ahead of him in yards, he played in fewer December games than each of them. And for comparison’s sake, here’s how they averaged out in December.
Receiving yards per game in December:
— Marvin Harrison (89.0), Torry Holt (82.2), Andre Johnson (78.8), Brandon Marshall (78.3), Roddy White (71.1), Anquan Bolton (67.9), Randy Moss (66.3), Steve Smith (62.9), Larry Fitzgerald (61.3), Reggie Wayne (60.7)
And that’s the top ten. A lot of the stars we view as “Canton Bound,” Marshall more than holds his own with. He doesn’t have the “Playoff moment,” but he more than assuages that with bolstered production.
Case in point: untimely drops have always been the talking point of Marshall’s flaws. But it comes as no coincidence that his highest catch target (61.5) comes in that month. He averages most yards there, too (unless you count his 91.0 yards per game in January, which further plays into his favor). That’s also the month he scores his most touchdowns. Quarterbacks, limited as they may be, know who to put the ball in the hands of when it’s do-or-die time.
The further you look individually, the more foolish it becomes to hold a Playoff-less career against him.
In 2008, the Broncos needed one win over three games to clinch a playoff berth. Marshall averaged 7.0 catches and 77.7 yards over that stretch.
In 2009, his NFL record 21-catch, 200-yard masterpiece came in December, and he averaged 10.8 catches and 101.5 yards, while scoring four touchdowns in four games. And that trend continued over the rest of his prime.
2010: 7.0 catches per game, 80.3 yards per game, 2 TDs
2012: 7.4 catches per game, 98.2 yards per game, 3 TDs
2013: 5.2 catches per game, 70.0 yards per game, 3 TDs
2015: 7.6 catches per game, 114.2 yards per game, 5 TDs.
Perhaps you remember this one.
These are Hall of Fame numbers. The shopworn argument that he has no resumè beyond the regular season may stand, but maybe someday, someone in Canton will take out 30 minutes — it literally took a half-hour — and consider the reasons why that wasn’t the case.