AL HAMNIK: Marshall, Cutler must deliver breakout seasons for the Bears

2014-05-24T18:15:00Z 2014-06-21T20:50:18Z AL HAMNIK: Marshall, Cutler must deliver breakout seasons for the BearsAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
May 24, 2014 6:15 pm  • 

LAKE FOREST | The Bears "family" was there for Brandon Marshall's Thursday news conference at Halas Hall. It was an upbeat, festive mood.

Marshall had gotten new paper -- a three-year, $30 million extension and I didn't want to spoil his party.

But, I just had to ask a hard question. Sorry.

Marshall is 30 years old and at his peak at wide receiver. Quarterback Jay Cutler is 31, also in his prime, and due for a breakout year after getting big money a while back.

So, is this the season both of you finally lead the Bears into the playoffs after three straight misses? You are the heart and soul of this offense, after all.

"It's not about Jay. It's not about myself," Marshall said.

Then who? Fendi Onobun? Jordan Palmer?

"If you look at last year, you have Alshon Jeffery emerge as one of the best receivers in the NFL," Marshall said. "You have Martellus Bennett, who I believe is the best tight end in the business.

"You have our offensive line that went from being way at the bottom, (going) to the top. I think we were third in giving up sacks last year, so it makes everybody's job easier."

The porous defense had a giant makeover through the draft and free agency, but Cutler and Marshall are still the cowboys who make this rodeo go.

Marshall disagrees.

"Teams no longer can load up the box and take Matt Forte out of the game," he said. "They can't double-cover me. If they do, Alshon, Martellus and Marquess (Wilson) can do some damage.

"We're getting older and we understand that it's time to get it done now. But it's not about us. Not only do we have guys on the offensive side, but we got guys on the defensive side that can get it done as well."

He included the coaching staff and front office, too.

"We have everything from upstairs and in the locker room to get it done," Marshall said. "It's about the bus and putting the right people in the seats. I'm all about team -- now."

See what he's doing here? Clever man.

He's taking pressure off himself and Cutler by applauding the whole roster. He's saying all of them are stars, all capable of winning or taking over a game, though none are in the same income bracket.

But here's the truth: Cutler wants desperately to be an elite QB but remains injury-prone and still isn't consistent enough game to game.

Marshall wants to be the No. 1 wide receiver of all time, statistically, and though he talks a good game in claiming to be a more mature, selfless player now, still gets funky when he's not being targeted frequently.

A struggling Cutler will doom the Bears in 2014, as will an ineffective Marshall.

The question still stands: Are both ready to make this a season to remember?

It starts with them.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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