Brandon Marshall can carry the load for Bears’ offense
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org October 21, 2012 7:26PM
Chicago Bears v Jacksonville Jaguars
Updated: October 22, 2012 6:48PM
Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler might be the most intriguing pair of buddy-buddy teammates in the NFL. The Frick-and-Frack relationship between two guys with uniquely disparate personalities makes every week interesting at Halas Hall.
Not surprisingly, it works. But it would work even better if Cutler had Marshall’s personality and Marshall had Cutler’s.
In the NFL, the quarterback is supposed to be the unflappable, upbeat guy who suffers fools gladly, quotes scripture and knows how to politely address an awkward subject. It’s the wide receiver who’s supposed to thrive as the moody, combative guy who wonders why you don’t ‘‘get’’ him, gets annoyed that you don’t know as much about football as he does and abruptly ends news conferences. If Cutler were Marshall and Marshall were Cutler, the Bears might be favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Not that they can’t win it as it is. Jim McMahon, an antagonistic cuss from a bygone era, won a Super Bowl with the Bears. But it took one of the greatest defenses in NFL history and one of the greatest running backs in NFL history to give him the chance.
The Bears 2012 defense and running back Matt Forte are good, but not quite that good.
Still, Cutler has one thing that McMahon did not — Brandon Marshall. It might be too soon to draw conclusions about an NFL wide receiver with a past as checkered as Marshall’s — at this point last year, my favorite Bear was happy-go-lucky Sam Hurd. But I’ll take a chance.
Marshall is the best thing to happen to not only Cutler, but the Bears as a team. When general manager Phil Emery acquired him, I thought there were better options that came with less risk. I was wrong. Or I’m wrong so far. Marshall has been so good on so many levels, he has a chance to be the Bears’ Reggie White.
Perhaps most of all, Marshall knows why he’s here. He accepts the responsibility of being the No. 1 receiver the Bears have lacked for years. He embraces his role and takes the good with the bad.
Asked if he enjoyed playing in a showcase event such as “Monday Night Football,” Marshall said, ‘‘You know I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I look at it as an honor. I love some attention, you know? But when [you have] that spotlight on you, you have to show up and perform. So it definitely makes it harder. I enjoy it.’’
‘‘I enjoy it.’’ If only Cutler embraced the reality of his status with the Bears as much as Marshall. Cutler cost the Bears two first-round draft picks. He takes up 7.7 percent of their salary cap. The minute he stepped foot in Halas Hall, he was the Bears’ best quarterback since Sid Luckman.
But he often sounds like he’s a game manager drafted in the fourth round. He never seems to put pressure on himself to get things done sooner than later. When things don’t go well, ‘‘it’s the first year of this offense.’’ He never seems as upset with himself as he sometimes does with others.
Cutler doesn’t seem bothered that he’s 28th in the NFL in completion percentage (57.7). When the Packers shut down the Bears’ passing game, Cutler blamed it on the Packers’ ‘‘two-man’’ scheme, as if it were a Star Wars defense system.
Everything takes time. Asked this week about the success of the Lions’ Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, Cutler said, ‘‘They’ve been together awhile.’’ In their first nine games together in 2009 — when Stafford was a rookie — Johnson caught 46 passes for 718 yards and four touchdowns from Stafford. Sometimes, if you’re that good, it doesn’t take time. That’s an opinion, but it’s based on fact.
Marshall still has a lot to prove when it comes to beating the Packers and winning ultimate games. But so far, he has been everything the Bears could have hoped for — on and off the field and behind the lectern in the Halas Hall media room.
Good enough, in fact, that he can be the one to put the team on his back in a time of need. Unless the defense continues scoring twice a game, somebody on the offense eventually will have to.