Brandon Marshall ushers in Bears' win-at-all-cost era
BY MARK POTASH Twitter: @MarkPotash March 16, 2012 11:26AM
New Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall talks to the media during a news conference at Halas Hall Friday, March 16, 2012, in Lake Forest, Ill.. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Updated: March 19, 2012 10:14AM
A question about the risk of acquiring oft-troubled wide receiver Brandon Marshall elicited a nearly five-minute soliloquy from Bears general manager Phil Emery on all the factors that convinced him it was worth it to trade two third-round draft picks for a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with a litany of personal-conduct issues.
Referencing everybody from Virginia McCaskey to ‘‘Dave and his video staff,’’ Emery said the character of Halas Hall from top to bottom will help nurture Marshall into a productive contributor to the Chicago Bears.
That’s all well and good. But it took coach Lovie Smith about 45 seconds of his own babble to cut to the heart of the matter when asked a similar question.
‘‘We’re trying to win games,’’ Smith said.
This is the new order at Halas Hall with rookie general manager Phil Emery running the show — Lovie Smith is the guy who gives you the straight dope. And the Bears are breaking all their own rules to try and win games.
While Marshall’s personal-conduct issues can’t be ignored, the fact of the matter is that the Bears’ current tack, however potentially dubious, still beats the previous one. Jerry Angelo would have given us a straighter answer to the question about the risk in acquiring Brandon Marshall. Except that he wouldn’t have acquired Brandon Marshall. With Angelo in charge, the Bears upgrade at wide receiver might be the very Bear-like Early Doucet.
Under Emery, the Bears are willing to ruffle a few feathers and incur the wrath of the National Organization for Women by acquiring a difference-making wide receiver and more importantly, someone who fits perfectly in Jay Cutler’s very narrow comfort zone. At least give them credit for already showing a more acute awareness of a key to success than the Bears did with Angelo and Mike Martz: Keep Jay Cutler happy. And who is Emery kidding when he downplays Cutler’s influence in this deal? If Marshall wasn’t a Jay Cutler hire, the Bears are throwing darts blindfolded in their attempt to stay relevant in the NFC. There were better options.
But Emery and the Bears were willing to take a chance, though it doesn’t appear they look at it that way. And with all due respect to my brethren in the media, one line of questioning in Thursday’s teleconference appeared a bit overwrought: Are the Bears concerned that acquiring a player with a history of violence against women will hurt the reputation of the Chicago Bears and the McCaskey name?
A fair question. But seriously, since when have the Chicago Bears shown any concern for their image or reputation? The Bears are a proud, family-run organization with more success than the average NFL team over the past 25 years. But they have been impervious to embarrassment or anything that affects their public image.
They’re tone deaf in anything involving public relations. The last major representative of the organization who commanded respect at a lectern was Mike Ditka — and he didn’t care what anybody thought about him, either. And the Bears have long been virtually immune to public pressure and sentiment. The one time the club was embarrassed enough to make a major change, Virginia McCaskey fired her son as team president after Michael McCaskey botched the hiring of Dave McGinnis in 1999 and hired the team’s contract negotiator to replace him.
But as baffling as it is from our perspective, it’s kind of admirable how they just keep on rolling and find their share of success out of their dysfunction. They built a new stadium, which stands as a fitting symbol of the Bears’ organization — the new Soldier Field is ridiculed as an architectural eyesore with an inadequate seating capacity and a playing surface that has embarrassed the organization on more than one occasion. But it got the job done.
The Bears reached the Super Bowl in 2006. They played in the NFC Championship Game in 2010. And if Brandon Marshall works out, the Bears have their best chance to win the Super Bowl since the last time they were there. At this point, I don’t think most Bears fans really care how they do it. Certainly, the Bears don’t.