BUFFALO — The numbers speak for themselves.
As impressive as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play has been this season, it’s receiver Brandon Marshall who has made the biggest impact on this surging Jets squad.
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On Friday, teammates selected the 31-year-old playmaker as their team MVP. And if his production continues at this record-setting pace, Jets receivers coach Karl Dorrell believes Marshall should be recognized with an even more significant honor: a spot in the Hall of Fame.
“If he plays at this level, it’ll be hard to say that he’s not,” Dorrell told Newsday.
With his first catch in last week’s win over the Patriots, Marshall broke Al Toon’s franchise single-season record for most receptions (93) en route to a season total of 101 catches. The 10-year veteran not only has a career-high 13 touchdowns to lead the Jets’ eighth-ranked offense but is the first player in NFL history to produce six 100-catch seasons.
“He seems to have a magic formula right now,” Dorrell said with a smile, referring to Marshall’s mental and physical health. “I think he can go at least another two or three years.
“Now, is that his goal? I don’t know. I think he’s taking it one year at a time, and he should. But if he stays at this type of regimen that he’s doing in the offseason, with his diet and how he trains, yeah, he’s got a lot left in the tank.”
Marshall’s arrival in March in a trade with the Bears has proved to be a steal for the Jets, who acquired him for a fifth-round draft pick. And those labels that dogged him during his tumultuous tenure with the Bears — quarterback- killer and locker-room problem — now seem completely misplaced.
“He’s not any of those things,” said Dorrell, who was in Miami with Marshall and Jets coach Todd Bowles from 2010-11. “I’m proud of him because I know that sometimes you can get labeled as something and it takes a while for that label to fall off of you — or that scarlet letter, I guess. And he’s proven over the time that he’s been here that he’s been nothing of the sort.”
In many respects, Marshall’s recognition as team MVP is vindication for the work he has done on and off the field. Now on his fourth NFL team, he’s focused solely on being a positive force in the locker room. But he said he’s still somewhat bothered by the perceptions people have of him.
“I made my bed and I’ve got to lie in it,” Marshall said in a one-on-one interview, acknowledging his reputation as “a problem,” his highly publicized issues with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his five arrests between 2004 and 2009, including investigations of domestic violence, none of which led to a conviction.
“It’s just how the world is,” added Marshall, who has become an outspoken mental health advocate after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. “I know what kind of person I am.”
His passion for the game once was viewed as a negative, but the Jets have always appreciated his enthusiasm and competitive fire. “It means a lot, because it was voted on by teammates,” Marshall said of being named their MVP. “You just try to serve your teammates every single day on and off the field and be the best you. So this is an honor.”
Marshall currently has 1,376 yards receiving, 59 yards shy of Don Maynard’s franchise record set in 1967. He also tied Maynard’s 1967 record of nine games with at least 100 yards receiving.
Dorrell said there was zero hesitation when it came to trading for him. The Jets knew he would be productive on the field. They also knew a wiser, more mature Marshall would be a leader in their locker room and their receiving room, Dorrell said.
“He’s much, much older now. And I say that in an endearing way,” he said.
Added Bowles: “He’s shown a lot of leadership. He’s shown a lot of help for the young guys. He’s shown a lot of inspiration and he’s shown people how to be professional. I think that’s been outstanding.”
Dorrell noted Marshall wasn’t 100 percent healthy during his Miami tenure because of labrum surgeries on both hips. But now he is feeling spry again.
“He told me as recently as Thursday] morning, ‘I feel like I’ve got my second wind. I can really go another five or six games,’ ” Dorrell said.
The assistant coach said he and Marshall now laugh together at the Brandon of Old. But it’s only because they can see how far he’s come.
“I see a shining star right now,” Dorrell said, beaming. “I’m excited about him at this point in his career because not only is he a great player, he’s been a great leader. He’s doing all of the little things that I think you would want a guy in his position to do for a football team.
“ . . . And I still think there’s a lot of football left in him.”