Chicago Sun-Times

Brandon Marshall goes toe-to-toe with Stephen A. Smith

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Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall surely scored points with a national audience after sparring with hosts Skip Bayless and Stephen Smith on ESPN's ''First Take'' last Friday. If you had told me one of the three was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Marshall would have been my third choice.

Marshall fought a losing battle with Bayless trying to defend LeBron James after the three-time NBA Most Valuable Player came up short again in crunch time in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. But he held his own against Smith, who challenged the notion that Marshall's offseason work with Jay Cutler will pay big dividends this season.

''I think we'll have a chance to win the Super Bowl,'' Marshall said, when asked by Bayless how good the Bears can be in 2012. ''It's a quarterback driven league. And I'm putting a lot of it on Jay. Three years ago, Jay was a great quarterback. The thing that separates him from then is his leadership. He led us then. But now it's just amazing.''

Bayless asked Marshall what is different about Cutler.

''It's how he can manage the organization. not just the offense, but the organization,'' Marshall said. ''He holds everyone accountable. He's out there, he's walking through routes, showing me how to run routes, how he wants it. He tells me, 'Get at quarterback, I want you to see what I'm seeing.'

''The games are won in the offseason. You don't go out there on Sunday and get it done. You get it done in the offseason.''

That's when an incredulous Smith chimed in.

''Really? You sure?'' he asked Marshall. ''There's plenty of guys working in the offseason that's going to stink up the joint this year. Are you trying to tell me that what you do in April and May -- that's the reason you're going to win in October, November, December? There's plenty of dudes losing that's practicing right now.''

Marshall didn't back down.

''But everybody doesn't have Jay Cutler on their roster,'' he said. ''They don't have a Brandon Marshall. They don't have a Matt Forte. They don't have a Devin Hester. They don't have [a Brian] Urlacher. They don't have a Lance Briggs. I could go on and on and on. They don't have those guys. They don't have a Lovie Smith.

''I stepped into a situation where the team is ready to go. I'm just lucky. That team was ready to win. I'm not saying that I'm the savior. But a guy that can beat one-on-one coverage consistently will definitely open up holes for for a guy like Devin Hester ... Earl Bennett.''

Smith, though, wasn't convinced.

''Tell me you believe in you. Tell me you believe in you,'' he said. ''Don't give me Jay Cutler yet. I believe in you. I don't know about Jay Cutler yet.''

Marshall countered effectively.

''I don't believe in me without a quarterback,'' he said. ''Now that I have Jay Cutler and I'm on that roster, man there's going to be fireworks.''

By then, Smith was grasping for straws.

''You've said that everywhere else you were.''

But Marshall was ready for it.

''I've never said that before.''

It was left to Bayless to end the bout.

''Stephen A., you should believe in the numbers these two put up in Denver,'' he told his ESPN brother. ''And they will get better.''

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B.Marshall was in an unfair fight with Stephen A.; it was a battle of wits and Stephen A. is unarmed in that fight..

Stephen A. Smith comes off to me like the loud-mouthed Chris Rock-type guy he is--he thinks if he almost yells his point it will make it right. If he can't recognize the role practice plays in sports, he is unqualified to be reporting anything beyond box scores. Seeing that he played basketball at Winston-Salem State University, it however understandable how he probably never saw the correlation between practice and success since his college didn't win the NCAA tournament during his time playing there.

The fact that Brandon Marshall (1) has a history of success with Jay Cutler (2) also has worked with Jeremy Bates and (3) has an actual running game to balance out the passing attack bodes well for him. The fact that this environment has motivated him to practice in the offseason is a great fan for Bears fans.

That Stephen A. Smith disagrees doesn't matter in the least--I didn't even know he reported on anything but basketball.

I put a Google Alert on the next time Skip Bayless is correct about anything, for it will be his first, and a momentous occasion.

The fact is the Bears have part-positioned, part-stumbled their way into a very interesting position for the upcoming season. For all his faults (many) as a GM, Mr. Angelo purchased at a pretty decent price one of, if not the most, gifted quarterback in the NFL. Angelo saw the brain freeze occurring in Denver and pounced, actually outbidding the insane fantasy football owner in Washington. Kudos to him.

The national sports media is a lethal combination of narrative-driven and lazy, leading to a spectrum with gossip and rumors and "reality stars" like Tim Tebow on one end, and wonky re-hashing of the obvious on the other (see coverage of the NFL Draft) until one's brain hurts even listening to the same talking points emerging from various lips.

Few outside Chicago (see the hardcore Denver fans who really understand what they lost) has any idea how talented Jay Cutler in part because his national games have been (mostly) stinkers, Chicago's offense has been manic-depressive and without a real star since perhaps Neal Anderson, and, frankly, the NFL has become a pitch-catch fantasy league and large, athletic basketball-player pass catchers are a must for success in the fantasy stats, really the only numbers taken into account nation-wide. Is this is how you create a "secret team" in the NFL?

What is a more appropriate analysis than either Skip or Stephen put forward? Look at what Marshall and Cutler have in common: they are aging well. They are maturing into men and professionals as Thirty nears, not unusual to men of my generation but exemplary for men of theirs. Hold on to your stats, Bears fans. This year will break records.

'Get at quarterback, I want you to see what I'm seeing.'

Well I am glad to see someone is working with the receivers. Yes that's a Drake insult.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on May 18, 2012 8:51 PM.

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