By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
Editor’s note: Less than an hour after this was posted, news broke that Brandon Marshall will be traded to the Jets. The column has since been updated to reflect that. Consider it an explanation of how everything developed leading up to today.
(CBS) At the end of last season, the Bears decided they’d had it with Brandon Marshall.
Amid the tension and chaos of firing a general manager and an entire coaching staff, sources indicated to 670 The Score that team ownership and upper management also came to the conclusion that dealing with Marshall wasn’t worth it, anymore — his divisiveness and selfish, unpredictable attention-grabbing no longer counterbalanced by enough actual value, particularly for a team exiting win-now territory and staring at a rebuild.
The Bears hired consultant Ernie Accorsi to lead their executive search and were soon wowed by the candidacy of Ryan Pace. As a condition of his hiring, Pace was given full control of the final call regarding the head coach and every spot on the roster, conditions discussed and agreed upon explicitly during their negotiations.
With that, Marshall’s future was in Pace’s hands. While previous opinions on him were expressed, the responsibility was transferred then to the newly minted GM to construct a team as he and his coach would see fit.
Prior to Friday morning’s news that Marshall will be traded to the Jets, sources said that Pace and John Fox were dismayed by Marshall’s very public insistence on continuing to fly to New York for his weekly television show, unpleasantly surprised at his on-camera job pandering to Ravens coach John Harbaugh and disappointed that he chose to reveal information from a private meeting at a personal press conference only hours after it occurred. Perhaps most significant, however, were their conversations with teammates who found support for Marshall’s continued presence to be minimal, at best.
Per one source, “No player jumped forward to say, ‘We have to have this guy.'”
The guys in charge now are all about trust and dedication to the job. Pace made that clear in his oblique comments when previously asked directly about Marshall, saying, “Football needs to be the No. 1 priority.” Marshall’s words and actions have long called such commitment into question and made it clear that the team’s life with him week to week carried a risk factor that was potentially distracting and entirely unnecessary.
Once the Bears’ efforts to shop him on the trade market became public, there were conflicting forces at work that set this endgame down an inevitable path — the parting of ways.
Marshall knew he wasn’t wanted, and he knew that everyone knew he wasn’t wanted. Bringing him back to the locker room under such circumstances would have been asking for trouble from someone already proven to be so emotionally fragile and mercurial. It was hard enough to take his childish, phony leadership seriously before and would’ve been utterly impossible now, if not outright silly.
Meanwhile, other teams in the league were aware of all of this. Any potential trade partner could play this chess game out enough moves to see that it probably would’ve ended up with Marshall released and able to sign somewhere on new, friendlier terms.
It was up to Pace to create a market by selling interested teams on the value of exclusivity — that it was worth giving up a middling asset to avoid the uncertainty of Marshall’s free agency, provided he’d agree on a restructuring of his lucrative contract. Pace sold the Jets on that idea, prying a small asset away in exchange for an aging, expensive receiver with noted behavior issues.
It’s indeed a promising start for him and the Bears.