Brandon Marshall, gone from Miami for almost three years now, can finally speak openly about his tumultuous two seasons with the Dolphins.
And the first thing the current Bears receiver brought up, when asked what could have been different about his time here?
“On the football field, I think that we were a quarterback away from having a team,” Marshall said, matter-of-factly Wednesday.
Granted, the Dolphins had a number of quarterbacks on their roster in 2010 and 2011. But make no mistake: He wasn’t referring to Matt Moore or Chad Pennington.
He meant that Chad Henne simply wasn’t good enough.
To be fair, the franchise ultimately said the same with its actions. The Dolphins let Henne walk after the 2011 season, and immediately spent a top-10 pick on Ryan Tannehill.
Henne now backs up rookie Blake Bortles with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But the Dolphins also parted ways with Marshall, shipping him to Chicago for two third-round draft picks.
So why is Marshall back in the news this week? He’s finally facing the team that dealt him in early 2012 — just a few weeks after appearing in his third Pro Bowl.
Joe Philbin was the brand new coach of the Dolphins at the time and Jeff Ireland was still the general manager. Philbin on Wednesday stated the obvious — that Marshall has had a “long history of production in the National Football League” — suggesting that Marshall’s talent was never the reason for the move.
But with Marshall, talent is only ever part of the story. He has had legal problems in the past, a very public and open struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder, and a history of marginalizing quarterbacks that didn’t meet his standards (see: Henne).
Put simply, he always seemed to attract the wrong kind of attention. He spent two days in the hospital in 2011 after police said his wife stabbed him in the midsection (the charges were ultimately dropped).
Asked Wednesday whether Marshall’s past issues with quarterbacks played a role in his trade, Philbin responded: “Not necessarily.”
He continued: “Again, that was a long time ago. We just felt like, at that point in time, where we were as a program and organizationally, the opportunity came and that’s the decision we came to.”
Added Marshall: “Was I surprised? I was surprised, but I was happy at the same time, once Jeff Ireland told me where I was going. I thought it was best for me and my family.”
Why? He was finally reunited with a quarterback — Jay Cutler — that he respects. Cutler and Marshall were teammates with the Broncos, and have picked up just where they left off in Denver.
Marshall had more than 100 catches and 1,200 yards in his first two seasons in Chicago. He has five touchdown catches in six games so far in 2014.
And he appears to have gotten his off-field act together, too.
“It’s been a blast coaching Brandon,” said Bears coach Marc Trestman. “He has as high a football intelligence as you can have. He understands what we’re trying to get done. He has a great relationship with Jay, in terms of how they work together. And he’s shown great leadership in the time I’ve been here.”
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are rid of Marshall, but it’s debatable how much more they got in return from Chicago. They packaged those two third-round picks into what essentially ended up being Michael Egnew, B.J. Cunningham, Will Davis and Dion Sims.
Egnew and Cunningham are gone, Davis has been benched in recent weeks and Sims is a viewed as a No. 2 tight end. Marshall, meanwhile, has been back to the Pro Bowl twice more as a Bear.
“I love Chicago,” Marshall said. “It’s a dream come true. It’s probably one of the only franchises out there with the history that we do. Rich tradition. The city is amazing. I commute, because I love the energy in the town, the people, the fans. It’s everything you want as a professional athlete.”
He added: “The ownership, management, the coaches here, the players. I’ve never been around it. It’s the best in the business. I’ve been on a few teams, and this is by far the best.”