Everybody knows the story of how Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross tried to surreptitiously hire Jim Harbaugh while they still had Tony Sparano as their coach.
Word of their secret cross-continental flight leaked, and the plan blew up in their faces. So did their relationship with Sparano.
What we haven’t known until now: Whom Sparano was with around the time he found out.
The remarkable answer: Brandon Marshall.
“I was there when Coach Sparano was sitting in his office and the owner, Stephen Ross, and Ireland were on a plane headed to Stanford to talk to Harbaugh,” the former Dolphins wide receiver told Miami reporters this week. “ … I’ll never forget the look on Coach Sparano’s face when I walked in his office; you know, their interview was probably going on.”
Marshall has been gone from Miami for almost four years now, and that’s the kind of refreshing honesty that likely hastened his exit.
Marshall’s time with Miami was explosive, no doubt. Most notably, he was briefly hospitalized after a domestic dispute during the 2011 offseason.
A few months later, Marshall announced that he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
“I remember asking Ricky [Williams],” Marshall said of the former Dolphins running back. “It was like, ‘Ricky, do you think I’m bipolar?’ And he was like, ‘No. No, Brandon, I just think that you say the things that everybody wants to but won’t.’
“That first year , it was terrible, but that was the year that really forced me to look in the mirror and change my ways. Everything I felt I would say was pretty much almost valid, but the way I was going about things was wrong at times.”
He never had a chance to convince Sparano’s successor, Joe Philbin, that he had truly changed; green-lighting Marshall’s trade to the Bears was among Philbin’s first decisions as Dolphins coach.
Fast-forward four years, and the Dolphins are basically in the same place Marshall left them: stuck in mediocrity, with an interim head coach finishing out another disappointing season.
But Marshall, now a member of the Jets after yet another trade, passed on the chance to kick the Dolphins franchise while it was down.
“You know, it’s hard, man,” Marshall said. “I’ve been in this business for 10 years and it takes a lot to go into winning. I think that Coach [Dan] Campbell may be the guy to turn it around down there. I really believe in him. So people just have to understand it’s not as easy.”
Marshall continued: “It takes a lot, and unfortunately the business changes every day and that really puts a gap in between players and coaches and the system to really grow and do something special.”
Sunday will be the third time Marshall will face his old team, but never before have the stakes been so high. The Dolphins are 4-6. The Jets are 5-5. This, for all intents and purposes, is an elimination game.
The Dolphins still are holding onto slim hope to make the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Marshall? He’s hoping to get to the playoffs for the first time.
“I was sitting around thinking about it the other day and what I did, I just Googled my record, our records on the teams I’ve been on the last 10 years, and I’m 68-68 as a player,” Marshall said. “At times it’s depressing. … I think about it a bunch but I’ve always got to refocus and slap myself sometimes and just focus on now and be mindful of the moment that I have right now.”
He added: “That’s all we have. I can’t fix the past. But as a competitor, you think about that. I would be lying if I said anything different. I think we’ve got some great things ahead of us here but you’ve also got to understand every dog has his day.”
▪ Linebacker Jelani Jenkins practiced Thursday for the first time since injuring his ankle in the Eagles game. Jenkins was limited in his participation.
“He looked better than I thought he was going to look; he looked better yesterday than I thought and he looked better today,” said Campbell, who wouldn’t commit to Jenkins playing Sunday against the Jets.
▪ Linebacker Chris McCain injured his hip flexor in practice Wednesday and sat out Thursday’s session. The injury is not believed to be serious. Left tackle Branden Albert (rest) and receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) returned to practice after missing Wednesday. Albert practiced fully; Landry was limited.
▪ When asked what he was thankful for Thursday, Campbell responded: “I’m thankful for a lot. I’m thankful for my family; I’m thankful for health; I’m thankful to breathe the oxygen in the air to be alive; I’m thankful for the brotherhood, which is what I call the crew out there; it’s great to be around those guys, and like I told them, there’s nothing better than getting paid to play a kid’s game. To be able to coach it and play it, and I just think it’s great. I have a lot.”