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PREVIOUS SPORTS
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

Marshall's Not Joshing
June 19, 2009

PREVIOUS SIDELINE NEXT SIDELINE

Welcome to the middle of forever. Two months since the draft and two more until we can overreact to preseason games. Move the Draft to May? Yes please; I can hardly remember what football even looks like. We're so far away from hard cold reality right now, some fans are starting to believe Brett Favre and Jay Cutler are locks to take them to the promised land.

However, as speculation season goes, 'Brandon the Bear' might be something to blink at through the summer haze. Brandon Marshall has already bidden farewell to Denver on his blog, suggesting that after a chat with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen 'we both came to the conclusion that this is probably the best thing for me to grow on and off the field.' Marshall's agent is making noises like a trade is imminent, while Coach Josh McDaniels says he expects Marshall in camp.

All of which raised more eyebrows than a Vulcan spider.

For one thing, Marshall's phrase 'on and off the field' has the ring of truth about it — with a suspension and hip surgery on his resume, it sounds a credible conclusion to an owner–player discussion. I think I believe it. Harder to believe is how easy it is to get out of Denver right now: just stamp your foot hard enough and remind the front office how many draft picks you're worth. And if I accept that Bowlen and Marshall have discussed an exit strategy, why does it sounds like Coach McDaniels might not be at the forefront of the decision–making process?

After replacing a Super Bowl winning coach, seeing the franchise quarterback flounce out of town, and not wowing anybody with his first draft haul, Josh McDaniels is making the kind of first–year impression Cam Cameron enjoyed in Miami after he traded Wes Welker and drafted Ted Ginn Jnr. You know: the brief kind. Losing Marshall would be like reopening the Cutler wound, and yet the receiver may have to go because what McDaniels needs most of all right now — to save the season before it's even begun — is to have cohesion, not distraction, in training camp.

Statistically, it hurts, of course. Over the past two years, Marshall has caught over 200 passes and 2600 yards. But it doesn't hurt as bad as Cutler, who threw for 4500 yards, and, in the one game Marshall missed, made debutant Eddie Royal look like an all–pro. Cutler was looking like the future, so parting with Marshall right now wouldn't hurt punch–drunk Broncos fans any worse.

Cutler himself is no finished product, of course. For all the yardage, his 25 TDs in 08 weren't stratospheric, and his 18 interceptions were second highest in the league. Chances are, with a defense like the one he'll have in Chicago (as opposed to the one he didn't have in Denver) that interception tally could drop, now he doesn't have to fling like a crazy man just to keep his team in touch. If the interceptions remain, he'll just be part of the pick party in the NFC North.

Last season, Vikings QBs Gus Frerotte and Tavaris Jackson combined for 17 interceptions. If (when) Brett Favre takes over as Minnesota maestro, factor in 22 interceptions from last year. Of course, Favre had a bad shoulder at the end of last year, so maybe interceptions won't be so much of a problem now that he's all healed (ahem!). In fact, over his 17 seasons as a starter, Favre has averaged 18 picks, and that average has risen to 20 this past five years.

And then there's the Lions, whose three QBs combined for 19 picks, and will be upgrading to a rookie sometime this season. As Detroit conceded 52 sacks last season, don't expect Matthew Stafford to be a Matt Ryan–style quick fix. If it came down to quarterbacking alone — and this being speculation season, we're inclined to pretend it does — Green Bay should win the division hands down with Aaron Rodgers, who managed 4000 yards and a woohoo–to–oops ratio of 28:13.

If you want to find the NFC North quarterback who was most careful with the ball throughout 2008, that would be Kyle Orton, this week announced as Cutler's successor in Denver (as much as anything can be 'announced' meaningfully in mid–June). The counter–trade to Cutler fumbled less than his NFC North rivals, threw fewer interceptions, and still approached 3000 yards while handing off to Matt Forte. In a Marshall–less Denver, Orton might find offensive similarities — instead of shifty Devin Hester, there'll be Eddie Royal, instead of rookie running back Matt Forte, it'll be Knowshon Moreno.

It may just be that out of this mess McDaniels appears to have made for himself, there's still hope. For all the stats, Cutler showed that a franchise flinger couldn't outweigh Denver's dismal defense. Having acquired Orton as a by–product of Cutler's departure, and drafted Moreno to be THE back instead of adopting any of Shanahan's stable, McDaniels is on the road to making the Broncos a possession–first team. That might not have been his original intention, but it's what he's salvaged from a bad start, and might suit a rebuilding defense better. A receiver with 100+ catches two years running helps a possession offense too, mind you, but hey, I'm trying to put a positive spin on things.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has little choice but let this all play out. The damage was done when he swapped Shanahan for McDaniels, not Cutler for Orton. If Orton plays evenly at QB — which has been his selling point so far — the Broncos will hope Moreno becomes their selling–point, their first star back since Clinton Portis, and the Cutler trade will be re–imagined as the first step to better times.

If Bowlen and co. can broker a similar trade for Marshall, that might be the second.


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