Brandon Marshall was brought to the New York Giants to be a game-changer, a guy who would take pressure off Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning and make plays that would help the Giants win games.
With 14:02 left in the fourth quarter and the Giants trailing, 17-10, Marshall’s first real opportunity to do that arose. With the ball at their own 21-yard line, Manning lofted a perfectly-placed pass down the right sideline to an open Marshall, who had clearly beaten cornerback D.J. Hayden. Catch the ball and the Giants are at midfield and set up for a potential game-tying drive.
Only, as Giants fans know, Marshall didn’t catch it. He has 943 catches for more than 12,000 yards in a 12-year career. This should have been an easy one. At least Marshall didn’t make excuses after the game.
“That was the moment. That was the biggest play of the game. I let my team down, I got an opportunity to make a big play and change the momentum and I lost it,” Marshall said after the game. “It was a perfect pass. I beat the guy really bad at the line of scrimmage, knew the ball was coming, saw the ball, at the last second lost it in the light and then I picked it back up and just dropped it. Just dropped it. Let the team down. That can't happen.
“When you get an opportunity in a big game like this, in that situation when you're down and you got an opportunity to go down and score and tie up the game, that can't happen.”
No, it can’t.
Two plays later the Giants punted and Jamal Agnew ran Brad Wing’s kick back 88 yards for a touchdown, giving the Lions a two-touchdown lead and crushing the Giants’ hopes of a come-from-behind victory.
“If I make that play, I'm confident that we go down and score, and that doesn't happen and that's on me,” Marshall said. “Sometimes you only get one or two opportunities in a game and it comes down to one or two plays. That was probably the biggest play of the entire game.”
In two games, Marshall has only two catches in nine targets. He spent much of the spring and summer talking about trying to gain a rapport with Eli Manning and an understanding of what the quarterback wanted from him in the Giant offense.
When I asked Marshall about where he was in his relationship with Manning, he answered with a joke that was really a non-answer.
“We are not in marital counseling, so that’s good. Our relationship is great. It’s not rocky,” Marshall said. “Usually they say the first two, three years of marriage is tough, but so far so good. We are still in that honeymoon phase, so that’s good.”
Considering the lack of connections between the two thus far, it is fair to wonder if that honeymoon is over.
It is also fair to begin to wonder just how much gas the 33-year-old Marshall has left in the tank, and whether signing him was the right idea.
Aside from his rookie year, 2016 was the worst of his career. His receptions (59), yards (788), yards per game (52.5) and catch percentage (46.1) were all career lows since he became a starter with the Denver Broncos in 2007. It is easy to blame all of that on poor New York Jets quarterback play, but it’s also fair to wonder if Marshall will have any more impact than the fan favorite he replaced, Victor Cruz, did last season.
Given the results of the first two games, no production from the veteran receiver and awful line play, it is also hard to blame anyone who wonders if the Giants should have put the $11 million ($5 million guaranteed) they allocated to Marshall toward finding a veteran offensive lineman.
It is far too early to label the Marshall signing a mistake. It is apparent, though, that he is struggling to catch on. If he doesn’t, then the move will ultimately turn out to be the wrong one.