Let's turn the clock back a little less than fifty days to August 29.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall had just been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, adding more salt to a still fresh wound for the Broncos. The team a few months earlier had traded their disgruntled franchise quarterback to the Chicago Bears and now were dealing with their number one receiver demanding a trip out of Denver.
Now fast froward to the present day.
The Broncos are the surprise of the NFL standing atop the AFC West with a perfect 5-0 record. Even more surprising is the fact that Marshall of all people has been the key player in the past two Broncos victories. Marshall made a spectacular run and catch for the go ahead touchdown against the Cowboys and just last Sunday scored the game-tying touchdown against the Patriots.
In other words, Marshall has gone from zero to hero amongst Broncos fans in less than sixty days. So what has changed?
First off, everyone and their mother knew that Marshall had the skills to be an elite receiver in the NFL. His past two seasons both saw him with over 1,200 yards and more than 100 catches. His talent was never in question.
What was in question was his ability to stay out of trouble off the field. A "freak" accident last season involving him putting his arm though a television was one thing, but him serving a one game suspension (it was reduced from three games) at the start of last season served notice that he could be problem child. His latest arrest this past March for disorderly conduct didn't help matters, though the charges in that case were dismissed.
The creme de la creme, however, came this past offseason after Jay Cutler was traded. Marshall, allegedly upset over his contract, demanded a trade from Denver. He had "trust issues" with the organization, and wanted out.
His antics during training camp that were caught by TV cameras were the straws that broke the camel's back and coach Josh McDaniels had no choice but to suspend Marshall for the remainder of the preseason. People figured it was a matter of "when" Marshall would be out of Denver, not "if."
Thankfully for the Broncos and their fans, McDaniels didn't give up that easily.
What has occurred since has been one of the most remarkable in-season turnarounds by a player in league history. Yes, the Broncos are winning and winning supposedly cures all, but what happens if the Broncos lose a couple games? Will Marshall revert to previous form and act like a petulant brat?
My money is on "NO."
My reasoning for this? Two images from the win over the Cowboys. First is the emotional embrace Marshall shared with McDaniels after he scored the winning touchdown and second is another embrace that Marshall and McDaniels shared during the coach's post-game press conference.
They a say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case two pictures are worth a million.
No one knows what words were exchanged between Marshall and McDaniels during their embraces, but what everyone should see is that a player can't fake emotions like that. Not even receivers like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco could create something like that and have it just be a show.
What Marshall and McDaniels shared was real, and the Broncos and their fans have every reason to believe Marshall has turned the corner and won't be looking back.
That is not to say he is completely out of the woods. Marshall's challenge from this point forward is maintaining focus, especially if the Broncos make the Super Bowl. Success breeds attention and Marshall could easily become distracted and the off field issues could rear their ugly head again if Marshall loses concentration on the big picture.
That is where McDaniels comes in. While he cannot and should not be Marshall's personal babysitter, what McDaniels can do here is make sure Marshall is reminded of how miserable he once was and how happy he is right now. Marshall needs to keep growing as a player and a person and all should be well.
One of the biggest surprises this season has been that no "star wideout" like a Marshall, Owens, Moss, or Ochocinco has erupted into a display of public humiliation. It's still early in the season and I bet one will happen.
But it won't come from the guy named Marshall.
Follow Kris Burke on Twitter @KBurkeNFL