Commentary

Emery puts rep on line with Marshall

New Bears general manager takes risk with first major move

Updated: March 15, 2012, 10:56 AM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- We haven't yet heard the Bears' new general manager Phil Emery spout the words "due diligence," a GM phrase former boss Jerry Angelo drove into the ground somewhere to the point of middle earth after Sam Hurd was hauled off by the feds.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesBrandon Marshall, one of the league's most gifted players, has found plenty of trouble off the field.

Given that, it was almost refreshing when Emery came out in a statement saying the Bears, in fact, "were aware of what occurred over the weekend" with wide receiver Brandon Marshall, for whom they traded two third-round draft picks to the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday.

Maybe this is why the Bears received a bargain-basement price.

Marshall was accused of punching a woman in the face at a New York club, which his attorney said did not happen and that his client was "assisting authorities" in the matter, which reportedly included Marshall's wife being hit by a bottle and taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

Under normal circumstances, if we can call any of this even remotely normal, a person with a clean record might be given the benefit of the doubt in a similar situation. A person with a clean record might even be excused for assaulting someone in defense of his wife, who had just supposedly sustained a serious injury.

But, of course, Marshall is not a person with a clean record. He has a history of incidents, including disorderly conduct, drunken driving and more than one alleging domestic violence (Marshall was also stabbed in the stomach by his wife in one domestic dispute in which charges were later dropped).

This is a person who was involved in another nightclub altercation in 2007 that may have directly led, by Marshall's own admission, to the drive-by murder of Broncos teammate Darrent Williams.

Marshall was called to commissioner Roger Goodell's offices in July 2008 to explain a series of incidents, most notably his March 6, 2008 arrest on a domestic violence warrant filed by his former girlfriend. He was suspended for three games for violating its personal conduct policy. The punishment later was reduced to one game.

This is a person for whom the Bears gave up two third-round draft picks and to whom they will pay a reported $28.1 million over the next three seasons.

Last summer, Marshall disclosed that he had received treatment for borderline personality disorder and anger management. He said he wanted to speak out on behalf of others who suffered from the same condition and was included in the making of a documentary about it called "Brandon Marshall: Borderline Beast."

If this is baggage, it's the kind that would draw a boatload of overage charges at the airport.

You can't blame Jay Cutler for wanting Marshall here and perhaps convincing the Bears to acquire him. Cutler's a player. It isn't his money. It isn't his sense of morality on the line. It isn't his responsibility. But it is why you don't let players make trades.

Cutler said in an interview on the "Waddle and Silvy Show" Wednesday that while the timing is "unfortunate. … We don't want to paint a bad picture of Brandon Marshall. Does he have a record of stuff in the past? Absolutely, but I know him as a person, not only as a player, and he truly is a good guy. We got a good teammate and we got a heck of a player."

He may very well be both of those things. But what Marshall brings to the Bears is a little more than a record of "stuff." It is a serious track record of questionable behavior. Even more embarrassing is the fact that ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that although the Bears knew there was an incident this weekend, the team did not know details about it or that Marshall was being investigated by the police.

Once again, not a ringing endorsement for the organization's security department, which last season somehow missed that Hurd was being investigated by the federal government before the Bears receiver was charged with accepting a kilo of cocaine from an undercover agent posing as a drug supplier.

Or maybe Emery simply does not care about Marshall's past. And, please, let's not minimize it by calling it a "character issue."

Yes, Marshall has said he has an emotional disorder and we believe him. But this is not about an employer doing the right thing by an employee who comes forward with such a problem. This is a prospective employer deciding to look the other way and invest millions of dollars in a person with a history of criminal activity.

And assuming Marshall does have serious mental health issues, is this really the situation you want to expose him to -- living in another big city with the pressure of playing for a team with extremely high expectations? His teams never sniffed the playoffs before. And who is going to babysit him here? Cutler? He'll have actual babysitting duties next season.

There are certainly fans who today are saying this is all still worth the risk and applauding Emery for his guts, even though the little older and little more expensive Vincent Jackson may have been had in free agency without giving up draft picks or any semblance of principles.

But forget principles for a second. Forget the fact that despite what Emery said about character during his introductory press conference, this reflects on his credibility.

The Bears' task now is pretty simple. All they have to do is win a Super Bowl before trouble finds Marshall again.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.