Brandon Marshall is going into his 12th NFL season with the same feeling he always has. This team, he thinks, has an opportunity to do something special.
Eleven times before, he’s been wrong.
“It’s hard for me because I’m such a competitor and sometimes that competitiveness blinds me,” he said Monday. “Every single year I’ve always thought we had a chance. Now that I look back, it’s a little stupid to think that, you know?”
Those years with the Broncos, Bears, Dolphins and Jets yielded zero playoff appearances. He came close, of course. A few times with the Bears. Two years ago, the Jets were one win away.
“We had to go up to Buffalo and win and we didn’t,” he said.
Now, though, he’s a Giant. And he’s on a team that many expect to reach the postseason. So what does he do?
He ups the ante.
“I never said the playoffs are my goal,” Marshall bristled when asked about wanting to reach that level for the first time.
Then he stated the actual goal: “To win. Win it all. I don’t want to just make it to the playoffs. What happens if you make it to the first round or we have a bye and get knocked out? That’s no good.”
So it is for the Giants as they embark on a season filled with promise. The team practiced for the first time as a 53-man squad Monday and will face the Dallas Cowboys in the opener Sunday night.
After going 11-5 and coming back with virtually the same defense and a seemingly improved offense (thanks in part to Marshall), expectations are as high as the pressure to meet them.
“We’re our biggest critics and I’m my biggest critic,” Ben McAdoo said. “No one from the outside can put any more pressure on us than we put on ourselves. We know what the goal is and we just have to take it one week at a time.”
“I don’t think you can get too overly concerned with expectations from the outside,” Eli Manning added. “We have expectations for ourselves, the style of football we want to play, what we want to do and need to do to be successful. We’re going to try to hit those goals. That’s our concern, not worrying about outside expectations.”
Marshall is looking forward to the opening game.
“It’s going to be cool to experience it,” he said of his first taste of the NFC East rivalry.
He did not catch any passes from Manning in the preseason games but believes he and his new quarterback are prepared for the season.
“We’ve had a lot of work in practice,” Marshall said. “I’m confident we’ll be right where we need to be on Sunday and make enough plays to get the job done.”
Marshall has said he will retire after the 2018 season. This not only may be one of his last chances to get to the playoffs — excuse me, win a championship — but also his best. He is surrounded by a team that might be the most talented of his career, including a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Asked if Manning is the best quarterback he’s ever played with, Marshall said with a straight face: “He has a long way to go to dethrone Ryan Fitzpatrick. We’ll see.”
We’ll see how the season plays out, too. The goal has been clearly stated. What remains unresolved is if it is a realistic one or, as Marshall might say one day in retrospect, stupid.
While optimistic, he is understandably hesitant to declare a definitive answer to that one at this point.
“We have a really good team,” he said. “But I’ve been in this situation before.”