FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Chan Gailey had heard all the negative stories about Brandon Marshall, so he was concerned about what might happen when he worked with the mercurial wide receiver.
"The old saying, 'Where there's smoke, there's fire,' '' the Jets' first-year offensive coordinator said on Thursday, recalling his first dealings with Marshall after the Jets acquired the 31-year-old in an offseason trade with the Bears.
But almost immediately, Gailey found Marshall to be a gifted player with a remarkably good attitude. "That [saying] fits at times," Gailey said of the smoke-and-fire expression. "But it certainly didn't fit this time."
Gailey remembers sitting down with Marshall shortly after the Jets traded for him on March 6. "The very first time he came in the building, we sat upstairs together," Gailey said. "It was very refreshing."
Gailey was familiar with reports of Marshall's troubled past, but he was assured by coach Todd Bowles -- who had seen Marshall successfully deal with his personal issues during their time together with the Dolphins -- that he would be a good fit for Gailey, and not just from an X's and O's perspective. It didn't take Gailey long to see for himself that was the case.
"He's not just good, he's wonderful," Gailey said. "He's a pro. He understands about how to go about working on the practice field. He has good ideas, but he's not hard-headed. He listens to other things that are going on."
The Jets haven't had a receiver with Marshall's talent in decades. Al Toon probably is the last receiver to have the kind of talent and explosiveness that Marshall possesses, and Toon last caught a pass for the Jets in 1992. Marshall is a big-time talent who has his priorities in order, and Gailey gets him at the perfect time in his career.
Marshall has the maturity he lacked in previous stops at Denver and Miami, and he luckily got out of Chicago before the Bears, now 0-3 and looking to go into complete rebuild mode, went south. With at least a few more years of elite play left in his body, this is an ideal situation for the 6-4, 229-pound receiver. "He just has a healthy respect for the game and where he is in his career and what he wants to accomplish at this point," Gailey said.
Marshall has responded with some of his best football to start the season. He leads the Jets with 23 catches (eighth in the NFL) for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, the Jets' leading receiver, Eric Decker, finished with only five touchdown catches all season.
Of course, Marshall isn't perfect, as evidenced by his ill-fated decision to lateral the ball after making a catch in Sunday's loss to the Eagles. He called that one of the all-time worst plays in NFL history, although there are far worse moments than that just in Jets history -- see: Butt Fumble, Shovel Pass, etc.
Overall, he is a huge positive.
Marshall faces a Dolphins team on Sunday in London that is far different from the one he left behind when he was traded to the Bears after the 2011 season. But as he was during his two seasons in Miami, he is a No. 1 receiver who carries the lion's share of the passing game on his shoulders. Especially given that Decker, who missed the Eagles game with a knee injury, might not play against Miami.
Marshall's presence is essential as the Jets move forward. If he stays healthy, there's no reason he can't approach the numbers he produced in his best years, when he totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards in seven consecutive seasons from 2007-13.
Consider that without Decker to take away some of the coverage against the Eagles, Marshall finished with 10 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Asked if there is a difference in the way teams scheme against Marshall if Decker is not in the lineup, Gailey quipped: "Yeah, they double him more."
But Gailey still will call Marshall's number. A lot. The offensive coordinator couldn't be happier with what he's got in a receiver who finally may have found a permanent home.