The fundamental question you must ask yourself about Brandon Marshall has nothing to do with his ability. That one’s a no-brainer. Even after 11 NFL seasons, he remains a valuable asset to any team: a big, fast, strong receiver who is a reliable red-zone target.
No, the issue you must resolve, the issue that faced general manager Jerry Reese once he decided Marshall was worth pursuing after the Jets released him last week, is whether the Giants’ locker room is the right place for a player who openly refers to himself as an alpha male. A player who has had run-ins with teammates almost everywhere he has been.
Reese was satisfied with the answer and decided to take a calculated risk, signing Marshall to a two-year, $12-million deal and adding him to a roster that already had one of the most high-maintenance players in pro sports. Reese decided his locker room indeed was big enough for Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr.
There are no guarantees it will work, no promise that Marshall won’t have a negative impact on Beckham, whose behavioral issues have been well documented. It almost seems counterintuitive to have a receiver with a me-first reputation paired with Beckham, whose latest fit of rage was punching a hole in a locker-room wall at Lambeau Field after a 38-13 playoff loss to the Packers.
Reese chastised Beckham the next day, telling the 24-year-old receiver it’s time to grow up — in a meeting between the two in the morning and in front of reporters that afternoon. Does putting Marshall in the same locker room risk creating further distractions for a team that doesn’t need any more than Beckham has provided?
Of course it does. But not to the point that it dissuaded Reese from taking a chance on a receiver who can still add plenty on the field to a team that is not far from contending for a Super Bowl.
It’s a good move, both in a football sense and for team chemistry. And in a best-case scenario, Marshall could help steer Beckham through this time in his career and help him understand what it takes to overcome the behavior that has been a drag on his reputation and the team’s attitude.
“I love the guy to death,” Marshall said on a conference call Wednesday. “He’s the biggest star in the NFL.”
Marshall, who will turn 33 March 23, sees a lot of his younger self in Beckham, and has reached out the last two years, particularly last season, to try and help him get better control over his emotions. Marshall speaks from experience, although he was far worse off than Beckham as a young player. After having numerous off-field problems, including several accusations of domestic violence from 2006-11, Marshall sought help and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Now an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, Marshall has turned his life around and become a far more positive influence in the community and the locker room. Yes, there have been flareups. He got into a shouting match with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in 2014 and nearly came to blows with Darrelle Revis last summer at practice in training camp. He also got into a public back-and-forth with Sheldon Richardson last year.
But for the most part, Marshall was a very positive influence the last two seasons with the Jets. Even when the team spun out of control in a 5-11 season in 2016, Marshall remained a consistent leader and was most definitely not a problem player. His production decreased from the year before, but mostly because he played through knee and foot problems most of the season, and because the Jets’ quarterback situation was abominable.
Marshall knows this might be his last and best chance to do what he has never done: compete for a Super Bowl. He hasn’t even been to the playoffs, but now joins a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Eli Manning, who is also nearing the end of his career and can benefit from Marshall’s presence on the field.
It’s a good move for all parties concerned. The Giants get a big-time talent to take some of the pressure off Beckham, and Marshall gets a chance to play for a Lombardi Trophy.
If he helps Beckham along the way, even better.
It’s certainly worth the risk.