When the Chicago Bears acquired wide receiver Brandon Marshall this offseason, everyone assumed that quarterback Jay Cutler finally had the No. 1 wideout he had been missing. After all, in two full seasons together with the Denver Broncos, Cutler and Marshall had torn up the league.
In 2007, Cutler started all 16 games for the Broncos, and Marshall was undoubtedly his top target. At 6'4" and 230 pounds, the Central Florida product was a big, athletic target for Cutler to throw to. That was a breakout season for Marshall, as he hauled in 102 passes for 1,325 yards and seven touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Cutler completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,497 yards, with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also posted a quarterback rating of 88.1.
In 2008, both Cutler and Marshall reached their first Pro Bowls. Marshall posted a career-high 104 receptions for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns. Cutler completed 62.3 percent of his passes for a career-high 4,526 yards, with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. His passer rating for the season was 86.0.
Cutler was traded to the Bears before the 2009 season, and he hasn't reached the same level since losing Marshall as a target. Meanwhile, Marshall has reached two more Pro Bowls and posted phenomenal numbers in 2009 (101 catches, 1,120 yards, 10 touchdowns), but his production has since slipped gradually each year.
Both guys were excited about the reunion in Chicago, and for good reason. They enjoyed the most success of their respective careers when playing together. Each guy has struggled with consistency since, for a variety of reasons.
While it's tough to tell just how they'll play together in a different city with different coaches and different teammates, there is no denying the duo was prolific in Denver.
How they perform in 2012 will have a direct result on how the Bears' season plays out. Nothing is certain, but there is reason for optimism in Chicago.