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Brandon Marshall is Progressing, if not Maturing

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Three weeks ago, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that, if Mike Shanahan was head coach of the Broncos into the offseason, he would have released wide receiver Brandon Marshall, as an alternative to addressing his contract situation.  That’s a bigger bombshell than trading Jay Cutler was.  An outright release of a pro bowl wide receiver who isn’t costing the team anything is basically unheard of.

Of course, I can make a strong argument that based on the evidence leading up to this offseason, Marshall hadn’t really even earned his roster spot, much less a pro bowl roster spot.  Consider:

  • In 2007, Brandon Marshall caught 60% of passes that targeted him for 7.79 YPA
  • In 2008, Brandon Marshall caught 57% of passes that targeted him for 6.99 YPA
  • Between those two seasons, Brandon Marshall was targeted on (hide the children) Three hundred and fifty one passes.
  • There are quarterbacks who started 14 game seasons who didn’t throw that many passes total.
  • Brandon Marshall missed the first game of 2008 with a suspension.

So what does this mean?  It means that the Broncos offense, which was productive, was performing at suboptimal levels, and it was doing so because a mediocre player like Brandon Marshall was the focal point of the passing game.  Now, add to that the fact that the player in question has a reputation as a completely juvenile prick, and well, your team would be better off without the pain in the ass than with it.

So reportedly, it was Mike Shanahan’s call to dump Marshall, and it’s because of the regime change that Marshall is still a Denver Bronco today.  Marshall still isn’t pleased with his contract situation, and he probably shouldn’t be considering the role he has held in the past.  Of course, Josh McDaniels came in and demoted Brandon to the 3rd WR, which 1) helped to discipline a young man whose career was heading in a questionable direction, and 2) it’s put him in a position where he can succeed in helping the team win games, receiving yardage be damned.

And with one catch and open field run, Marshall arguably made the leap from unpolished, overused talent to productive wide receiver in the NFL.  He might still be only the No. 2 WR on the Broncos, but he’s always been a dynamic deep threat.  He’s just starting to turn those big plays off of intermediate passes.  Marshall should be very thankful to McDaniels for getting his career on track, and particularly apologetic for his prior transgressions.  If Mike Shanahan had been around to ship Marshall on his way, it could have been a career altering move and Marshall, who would have made more than he’s making this year, would never have seen the big bucks.  With his team 4-0 this year, and as the star of the Dallas game, Marshall is on the verge of a big payday, that is as much to the credit of those around him (Pat Bowlen and Josh McDaniels in particular), as it is to the refining of his skills.

But don’t be fooled: Marshall is a much better player now than he has been in past years and past offenses, and though he might still be a meathead, the self improvement is primarily a product of hard work and a great opportunity.

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