Brandon Marshall came with heavy baggage
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2012 10:48PM
Brandon Marshall (above), Cedric Benson, Sam Hurd and Tank Johnson have had their share of troubles. | AP
Updated: April 16, 2012 8:26AM
New general manager. Same Bears.
We’re too soon into the Phil Emery era to tell whether he brought his own supply of clumsiness to Chicago or whether the Bears’ bottomless reserves already have seeped into his being. But there’s no doubt the Brandon Marshall fiasco is in keeping with the team’s history of eye-rolling goofiness.
And that’s the nice version.
The ugly version is that the Bears didn’t know all the details when they gave up two third-round picks to the Dolphins on Tuesday for a wide receiver who had allegedly punched a woman in the face two days before.
There’s a lot to sort out here, and law-enforcement officials and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will do just that. The Bears and Dolphins said they knew of the incident at a New York nightclub and chose to consummate the trade anyway. But ESPN reported that, although the Bears might have been aware Marshall was involved in an incident, they didn’t know the specifics of the case or that police were investigating the matter. Marshall hasn’t been charged.
Perhaps the Bears can arrange a meeting with “due” and “diligence’’ so that everyone can get acquainted.
Even before Sunday’s events, a single sheet of paper couldn’t contain Marshall’s troubles. There’s a DUI, an incident in which his wife was accused of stabbing him in the stomach and many encounters with police that ended up with charges being dropped. He was involved in an altercation in 2007 at a Denver nightclub just before Broncos teammate Darrent Williams was shot to death. One report said Marshall had 12 brushes with police in the 27 months after the shooting, many of them domestic issues. That’s a lot of wrong place, wrong time. Whether you believe he was an innocent bystander in all those incidents, would this be first player you’d look to after the Sam Hurd mess?
Remember, the Bears — players included — said they had no inkling Hurd, another wide receiver, might be a drug dealer until he was arrested last season. Again, you can choose to believe that or not. But if you’re Emery or team chairman George McCaskey and you’re presented with Marshall, isn’t there some part of your brain that says, “This might not be a good idea in terms of perception, which we’ve heard is everything’’?
The Bears desperately need a No. 1 receiver, and kudos to the new GM for identifying what former GM Jerry Angelo couldn’t see with a telescope. But wasn’t there a receiver available who doesn’t have behavioral issues?
That noise you hear is from the people who say that football is a violent game played by violent people. And they’re right. If you saw Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox get bent back like a slalom gate during a game last season, then you already know that. But it’s not too much to ask that players limit their violence to the field.
It’s funny. From the chorus of voices saying that Emery did such a wonderful job of landing the troubled Marshall are some of the very same people who were extolling Tim Tebow’s virtues as a role model. Well, which is it? Which do you want?
But the bigger question at hand is whether the Bears are capable of ever doing anything right. They were on their way to the playoffs last season until Jay Cutler got hurt and Angelo fiddled while backup quarterback Caleb Hanie burned their chances.
The Dolphins were willing to trade a receiver who had 81 receptions and 1,214 yards last season for two third-rounders. That only happens in the NFL if a player has baggage surgically attached to him. Marshall has said he has borderline personality disorder, a mental illness characterized by mood swings and problems with relationships.
The bottom line for most, if not all, NFL teams is how a player performs on the field. Production tends to trump everything. It’s why the Bears chose not to re-sign special-teams player Garrett Wolfe after he was arrested for skipping out on a bar bill. And it’s why the Bears dragged their feet when it came to cutting defensive lineman Tank Johnson, who was a big presence on the field but a problem child off it.
The Bears could be without Marshall for the first part of the season, due to suspension, but that’s not the issue. It’s that they have a player who always seems to be in the general vicinity of trouble, if not pitching a tent in the middle of it. It’s that they trust him.
From a football standpoint, Tuesday’s deal made sense. Marshall is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. The trade reunites him with Cutler, his former Broncos teammate. They were very successful together.
Apparently, that’s all that matters.