When Brandon Marshall settles in for his side gig Tuesday as a panelist on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” don’t hold it against him if the camera catches the usually stalwart Bears receiver squinting and scouring the fringes of the set, as if searching for familiar figures lurking in the near shadows.
After all, Darrelle Revis and his fellow defensive backs tailed Marshall to the final whistle Sunday in New England’s 51-23 win. By the end of a mismatch in which he had just three receptions on 10 targets for 35 yards, he had to be wondering if he’d ever shake free of them.
“Get your plane ready for that show you do on Tuesday,’’ hooted Patriots radio analyst Scott Zolak near the end of Marshall’s frustrating Sunday. “That should be a fun one.”
It was jarring — perhaps the better word is “encouraging” if you’re a Patriots fan — to see Marshall rendered silent on Sunday. He is one of the league’s more accomplished receivers. The ninth-year veteran has made five Pro Bowls.
He rarely remains quiet for long on the field. The same long has been true away from the field, which is why Showtime considered it a coup when he agreed to join Greg Gumbel, Phil Simms, and Boomer Esiason as a regular on their weekly program this season, the first active player ever to do so.
“Having Brandon is a no-brainer,” Showtime general manager Stephen Espinoza told Comcast SportsNet Chicago in late August, when Marshall’s addition was announced. “He’s articulate, intelligent and he’s one of the best players at his position. It’s a huge boon to the show.”
It’s been a bigger boon than Showtime probably dared to expect. The Bears, 3-5 after Sunday’s loss despite an offense stacked with talent, have devolved into chaos in recent weeks, and Marshall has been in the eye of the storm. After the Bears’ 27-14 loss to Miami last Sunday, there were reports that yelling among Bears players could be heard from outside the locker room.
Marshall admitted involvement to reporters after the game, saying he emphasized, loudly, that the 3-4 record was not acceptable.
The controversy made one immediately wonder whether he would address it on “Inside the NFL”, bringing the kind of anticipatory buzz television programs would pay millions to guarantee if they could.
Marshall, who flies to New York on the Bears’ off-day Tuesday, tapes the show, and flies back that night, did not dodge the topic.
“Oh, absolutely my voice was heard,” he said Tuesday. “The only thing I regret is that the door wasn’t closed, but I wouldn’t change any of my reaction because it came from my heart. [Our record] is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now.”
The only turn the Bears’ ship took this Sunday was toward the bottom of the ocean. The frustration of the debacle clearly wore on Marshall during the game – after running a deep pattern on third and 10 in the fourth quarter, he came out of the game despite the Bears’ decision, dictated by the lopsided score, to go for it on fourth down.
Marshall took offense to the suggestion that checking out of the game suggested he was also checking out on his team.
“I don’t give up,” he said. “I’m a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter. I’ve fought my whole life. Whatever you’re trying to refer to, it’s wack to me.”
His point about always being a fighter is one that is accepted with an admiring nod if you’re familiar with his back story. The stereotype of the diva wide receiver is annoying enough as a generalization. But it’s not fair – and even ignorant – to apply it to Marshall, even with his well-documented history of emotional outbursts and behavioral issues in previous stops in Denver and Miami.
As he revealed two years ago and was documented with rich nuance by a recent “A Football Life” documentary, Marshall suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, which causes a struggle to process emotions and leads to intense fears of abandonment, among other awful effects.
Marshall, as the film shows us, has been downright heroic in helping others cope with the disorder. He’s warm, charismatic, and articulate, traits that help him connect on a personal level in the same way he connects with viewers on “Inside The NFL”.
But if anyone wondered whether there is any division in his loyalties between his Sunday and Tuesday jobs, those thoughts were erased after the loss to the Patriots.
As Marshall passed the media en route to the Bears locker room following the game, he offered a mocking warning.
“Come put your ears to the door,’’ he said.
The point did not require elaboration.
Marshall may work in the media one day a week. But his living is still made in the NFL, and some things must stay on the inside.
Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.