This post was originally published on December 29th, 2015. Marshall’s stats have been updated through the end of the 2015-2016 season.
It’s only been nine months since he was traded, but Brandon Marshall’s last season in Chicago feels like forever ago.
That’s what happens when you play a career-low amount of games, have a bizarre 40-minute press conference more fit for a political debate, and your doormat coach barely makes it through the franchise’s ugliest campaign this side of the year 2000.
Yeah, 2014 wasn’t a memorable one for Brandon Marshall.
By the time he was put on season-ending IR after 13 injury-hampered games, Marc Trestman’s head was on a metaphorical spike and Bears fans had submitted their applications for the witness protection program.
One year later, the same Brandon Marshall is having one of the finest seasons of his career with the New York Jets – who as of this writing are 10-5 and clinging to the AFC’s last playoff spot.
In Marshall’s first season with the Jets, his fourth team in ten career seasons, he posted 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns – good for fourth and first (tied) among all NFL receivers in each of the “non-PPR” categories.
Not bad for a 31-year-old traded for a fifth-round pick.
Leaderboards aside, Brandon Marshall has officially logged 1,000 yards in eight of his nine seasons as a full-time starter; the only exception being Trestman’s Farewell Of Hell in 2014.
Of the 11 receivers listed on the NFL’s website with eight or more 1,000+ yard seasons, four (Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Steve Largent, Cris Carter) are in the Hall of Fame and three more (Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss) are well on their way.
For whatever reason, Steve Smith Sr. isn’t listed – but he and Marshall are the only active wideouts (played in 2015) with eight 1,000-yard campaigns.
Marshall is the first receiver in NFL history to log six seasons of 100 catches. His 79 career touchdowns put him on a pace to easily finish inside the top-15 all-time — and the top-10 isn’t out of the question. After all, during his first season with the Jets, he’s already set a new career high for touchdowns and finished six yards short of doing the same in yards.
Both of those personal bests came during his first two seasons in Chicago, racking up 1,508 yards in 2012 before scoring 12 touchdowns in 2013.
Then came 2014, and despite his impressive track record — Brandon Marshall became a predictable trade piece for new GM Ryan Pace and the rebuilding Chicago Bears.
The logic still makes sense – shed salary cap and get a higher draft pick – but there’s no chance Pace or the Bears saw this type of season coming from Marshall. Because nobody did.
Long labeled a ‘locker room cancer’ and on the wrong side of 30, the narrative practically wrote itself.
“Brandon Marshall has likely already played his best football, and add in his extra baggage – antics, distractions, whatever you want to call them – it’s not worth it for new coach John Fox to find out if he still is in Pro Bowl form.”
Come on, we all bought it. Clearly, Ryan Pace – with new head coach John Fox coming in to establish a new ‘culture’ – bought it too.
But this isn’t about questioning the trade, or wondering if Fox’s first season would have gone differently with Marshall still in town. It probably wouldn’t have.
No, as he’s taken upon himself to prove this season, the bigger point is that any narrative about Brandon Marshall should start with “He’s really damn good.”
All the other stuff that makes better headlines can come after that.
Over the years, Marshall’s story has always been painted as complicated – but it’s really rather simple. The dude is one of the best receivers in the game, and yeah – a couple of headaches are going to come with.
He is what he is.
As long as you have a strong presence at head coach, the headaches really aren’t going to matter. Just ask any Jets fan, employee, or player if they still give a shit about Marshall’s foolish lateral back in Week 3. Spoiler alert: they’ll all say no.
Thanks to Brandon Marshall playing like a Pro Bowler under promising coach Todd Bowles, the Jets won 10 games for the first time in five seasons.
Those headaches certainly didn’t matter during Marshall’s one season with Lovie Smith in Chicago, when the Bears went 10-6 and missed the playoffs. Marshall still has never participated in the playoffs, another overblown caveat of his generally misunderstood career.
And even though the Jets failed to hold onto their postseason berth, he’s already shown that those caveats are just subplots of the bigger picture.
Brandon Marshall is really damn good at his job.