By Jason Keidel
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You might think the Giants are suffering some media envy at the moment, courtesy of the Jets. Indeed, Gang Green has been deep in the media vortex over the last week or two, with all manner of moves, including an epic purge of future or borderline Hall of Famers Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall.
In the meantime, the Giants have, well … yanked the headlines back Big Blue’s way.
Call it the Marshall Plan.
Brandon Marshall is moving. Down the hall. To the next locker room. The receiver extraordinaire is now a New York Football Giant. And he doesn’t have to leave the state, city or building.
And it’s a brilliant move by Big Blue.
Leave it to a former Jets coach to frame it flawlessly. Herman Edwards, part coach, part player, part analyst, part parody — “Hello! You play to win the game!” — called Marshall the Giants’ next Plaxico Burress. Sans the poorly placed pistol in a nightclub, we hope.
Edwards is right. Like Burress, Marshall is big, has no allergy to galloping across the middle, has sublime hands and is playing with a chip — make it a cinder block — on his shoulder.
After the recent loss of Victor Cruz, whose sin was age and wage, the 32-year-old Marshall hopes he has just enough high-end skill left to make his mark before he makes his case for Canton. He turns 33 in two weeks.
Like Burress, who left the Steelers with a reputation for being a locker room bunion, Marshall is on a crusade to prove he not only has two dozen more touchdowns left in his hands, but that he’s long shed his malcontent reputation like a snake peels off its skin.
Like Burress, who left the Steelers sans a Super Bowl ring — Pittsburgh won it the very year he left for New York — Marshall is desperate to get his hardware before the first clear sign of erosion. Heck, Marshall would take a single playoff win. Heck, Marshall would take a single playoff appearance. The Giants, fresh off an 11-5 season and painful playoff loss, will be heavily favored to return.
Like Burress, who burned Green Bay in the 2007 playoffs, Marshall would have been a perfect tonic for the Packers in last season’s playoffs, and surely hopes for a rematch in 2017.
Pioneering Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey is credited with asserting that it’s better to trade a player a year early than a year late. Along those lines, it’s better to get a player whose professional belly is starving for victory than someone who’s sated, who is just collecting a final few checks before he cashes in. We saw Marshall pinball across the nation, from Denver to Miami to Chicago to the Meadowlands, without so much a single January win. He needs the Giants even more than they need him.
Marshall made $9.5 million to lose with the Jets last year. He will make $6 million to win with the Giants this year. And his deal, two years for $12 million, is both player and franchise friendly.
Whatever his legacy while he was in his 20s, Marshall is a perfect citizen in his 30s, was a gentleman as a Jet and is precisely what the Giants need right now. Eli Manning desperately needs a gridiron binky, someone he can throw to on third down, someone who can keep Manning from staring down Odell Beckham Jr. on every other play.
Speaking of Beckham, the electric, eclectic wideout who is taking an eraser to the record books, very much needs a Sunday big brother, someone who can cajole or counsel him, depending on the moment. When Beckham launched into his Cornholio moment (a ’90s “Beavis & Butt-Head” reference) while playing Josh Norman, not a single teammate grabbed or corralled him back to sanity. Marshall would have been the first to do so, because Marshall was once Beckham — a wild stallion who just needed the right dose of wisdom. Marshall is just the guy to lift Beckham from from really good to great to transcendent.
Forget what you think you knew about Marshall, who has gone from the edge of obscurity, from being an NFL afterthought, to a sprawling career featuring six Pro Bowls, while closing in on 1,000 receptions. Marshall has matured. Rather than blame his parents or his profession for his troubles, Marshall faced mental illness head-on like a cornerback tugging on his jersey. He’s not only a model citizen but still quite productive, all while setting up his post-playing career with various cameos in various studios around the nation, along with his gig as full-time pundit for Showtime’s iconic “Inside the NFL” program.
It’s unfair to say Marshall has gone from Jets trash to Giants gold. Gang Green wanted to keep the hulking wide receiver, but Marshall wanted to run his route tree for a contender. Big Blue is the best possible elixir.
This is one of those rather rare NFL moments when no one loses. Big Blue needed a big-time player to complement Manning, Beckham and the entire offense. They got one.
A mature player needed a mature franchise. He got one.
Call it the Marshall Plan.
Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel