So perhaps you’ve heard that Brandon Marshall is punting footballs again. Not quite like in Denver but obviously the “problematic” label is one that has followed Marshall. And this most recent report, however insignificant it may have been, has caught the attention of the national media.
Now this is interesting on two levels, and we’ll get to the second in a moment, but first of all, this is not really a story about Brandon Marshall at all. Marshall is hardly a malcontent in Miami. The man is a huge part of the Dolphins’ plans. He’s been paid handsomely. And despite recent acquisitions by the Heat, he’s still a star in Miami and nationally.
No he’s punting footballs because he’s not happy with himself. The man has high expectations, he’s competitive. In his preseason debut he dropped two passes, he’s dropped a few in practice. Brandon Marshall doesn’t drop passes. The man is frustrated. Chad Pennington has said the problem is Marshall is just trying too hard, his blocking and routes have been incredible. His own head coach when asked about Marshall’s behavior said:
“I didn’t see it, but … I got bigger fish to fry, I wouldn’t worry about that. If he drops them and he gets pissed off at himself about dropping them, I’m okay with that.”
Still, it’s camp-time and there’s space in the news cycle to fill, so expect to see this “problem” continue to be batted around. It doesn’t seem to be a point of contention amongst the Dolphins though, and that’s the group that matters. Clearly Tony Sparano isn’t too irritated that his star receiver holds himself to a high standard.
“[Players] should take ownership when it’s good and take ownership when it’s not so good. So, Brandon is a competitive guy. He’s a leader and I think that the guy — he leads more by example. So, if he does something wrong that’s a positive, if he does something not well he’s the first guy to let them know that he didn’t do it well.”
And clearly it’s not an issue amongst the players either. Yesterday in the practice bubble after diving to deflect a pass intended for Brandon Marshall, Vontae Davis leapt up, grabbed the ball looked over at Marshall then boomed a punt down to the other end of the bubble. Either Vontae has absolutely no sense of tact, or the issue of Marshall’s foray into kicking is not a point of contention amongst the Dolphins. My guess it the latter.
Follow me past the break.
No the real story, the one which nobody in the media seems to be noticing is that for a team that prides itself on not giving any preferential treatment, they sure do tip-toe around Brandon Marshall. Remember when Karlos Dansby got signed and we all wanted to hear what he had to say, but aside from a couple of quick phone interviews, there was no press conference because the Miami Dolphins don’t hold press conferences for new player acquisitions. That was the party-line.
Well Brandon Marshall didn’t have an “official” introductory press conference, as in the the Dolphins didn’t put out a press release and it wasn’t at team headquarters. But Dolphins PR Czar Harvey Greene was there moderating and Dolphins security personnel were present. So you tell me. They certainly didn’t want step in and prevent it from happening or risk upsetting Marshall over it, they just sort of let it go.
Now here’s another question, in the past two years have you seen any player rock the boat and not be dealt with immediately? Has anyone gotten preferential treatment? Even the highly subversive Joey Porter was benched for a stint last season, that’s a potential powder-keg that did eventually go off but the team had no issue risking that. Jason Taylor was Dolphins royalty who signed for the minimum just to come back to Miami after Bill Parcells TRADED HIM and he arguably didn’t even get a respectful shake from Miami this past offseason, let alone a preferential one. Zach Thomas was on record six months before he retired saying he wanted to return to Miami for a day to retire a Dolphin (what took six months!?).
Who else would dare to punt a football in Dolphins camp? Nobody until Brandon Marshall. And after two years of applying a consistent organizational philosophy where rules are rules and nobody is bigger than the team, this regime (which is old school by all accounts) didn’t want to face it down. Tony Sparano put a positive spin on it. Nobody is going to get in trouble for it. I’m sure Brandon may hear about it a little bit in Coach Sparano’s office, but how strong is that message going to be? Honestly?
The external perception is going to be that what Marshall did, to the coaches and team, is OK. And honestly, that’s fine. If that’s the atmosphere and level of decorum Tony Sparano is comfortable with in his camp now, I’m fine with that. He’s an NFL coach, he’s more qualified to make that determination than I am. My point is that it’s inconsistent. I can’t imagine anyone else over the past couple of years not getting into some trouble for that stunt, much less even wanting to try it under this regime.
But Brandon Marshall did. And if Tony Sparano is cool with that, fine, but the culture of the Miami Dolphins just changed. Case in point, as was mentioned earlier Vontae screwed around some last night. Maybe it will be a good thing. Maybe the team will play looser and grow closer. I don’t think a rigid atmosphere is always the best one, clearly Rex Ryan is happily lodged on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Parcellsian school of though. You can tune into Hard Knocks tonight and watch the circus up at Jets camp. As I said, my only point is things just changed.
In a moment of frustration Brandon Marshall unwittingly pushed the proverbial envelope a little. He did something out of place at Dolphins camp and faced with a potential situation the Dolphins chose not to risk to strong a response towards the formerly-volatile receiver. Maybe the end of Joey Porter’s tenure changed some of this regime’s thinking. No doubt the issue was discussed internally. But the response which may have come for anyone else never came. And now it will be interesting to see how the dynamic of the team begins to shift as Brandon Marshall continues to grow comfortable in Miami. Because clearly the Dolphins are cautious with him in a number of ways.