Defensive end Leonard Marshall was one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the New York Giants.
One of the reasons the New York Giants have won four Super Bowls is because they’ve had elite pass rushers who could consistently apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
A big reason why the Giants were able to win their first two Super Bowls—21 and 25—was because of their stellar defensive end Leonard Marshall.
The Giants took Marshall in the second round of the 1983 draft (37th overall) out of LSU. He would appear in 14 games as a rookie, playing right defensive end where he would play for the duration of his Giants career.
After registering seven sacks in his first two seasons, Marshall would have his breakout season in 1985 and helped the Giants to a 10-6 record. In the Giants’ season opener 21-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Marshall had a career-high 3.5 sacks. He finished the season with a career-high in sacks with 15.5 as well as a career-high in tackles with 99.
As a result, Marshall was named to his first Pro Bowl and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors.
With Marshall now a dominant force to go along with future Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the Giants had one of the most fierce pass rushes coming off the right edge that the NFL has ever seen.
The following season, in 1986, Marshall would once again be voted to the Pro Bowl and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors as he finished the season with 12 sacks. More importantly, he helped the Giants to a franchise-best 14-2 record and their first Super Bowl when they defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20. In that game, he led the Giants in sacks with two takedowns of Broncos quarterback John Elway
Marshall remained a solid pass rusher for the remainder of the decade. He had eight sacks in the strike-shortened 1987 season and another eight in 1988. The following season he tallied 9.5 sacks, 81 tackles, and two forced fumbles.
In the 1990 regular season, his sack total dipped to 4.5, but Marshall would make a huge impact in the postseason, including his sack and forced fumble of Joe Montana in the NFC Championship game, which was the signature play of Marshall’s career.
With the Giants trailing the 49ers 13-9 in the fourth quarter, Marshall pursued Montana, who was rolling out to his right, and unleashed a vicious hit to Montana’s back. The football popped up in the air. Marshall’s sack of Montana was one of the key plays in helping Big Blue end the 49ers’ quest for a three-peat as the Giants won 15-13.
A week later, he helped his squad to another upset victory as the Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl 25. Despite the defense playing primarily with two defensive linemen, Marshall was able to pick up the team’s lone sack of the game on Jim Kelly.
Marshall’s high level in play continued in 1991 when he finished the season with 11 sacks. But reports began to surface the following season of him clashing with head coach Ray Handley. Unfortunately, 1992 would be Marshall’s last season with the Giants. He finished the season with four sacks, before leaving for free agency and signing with the Washington Redskins. His final season came in 1994 and he finished that year with two sacks.
He would later sign a ceremonial one-day contract with Big Blue to retire as a member of the Giants.
As a Giant, Marshall’s 79.5 sacks are the third most in the franchise’s history, only trailing Taylor and Michael Strahan. It remains a mystery as to why Marshall has yet to be inducted into the Giants Ring Of Honor.
Time will tell if Marshall will make it into the Ring of Honor but one thing is for certain, he is one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise, who stepped up on the biggest stage.