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.''