So there has been some debate as to whether the Brandon Marshall trade was a positive or negative move by the team. I, personally, was pleased with the trade as I viewed him as more problematic than helpful. Although, I think a very good case can be made that he opened up the offense more, it was always my nagging suspiscion that he demanded the ball to the detriment of the other receivers and Chad Henne. I know there is no way to accurately judge how the team would have performed with and without him, but here is my best attempt.
The best way I could come up with to compare the teams production (i.e. with all things being as close to equal as possible) was to compare the 2009 and 2010 stats - the year before we acquired Marshall and the year after. I chose these years because of the consistency - there was the same starting QB for most of both years, Chad Henne; we had the same offensive coordinator, Dan Henning; we had the same running backs and a majority of the same offense. I know it is by no means a perfect comparison, but I think it provides the best comparison for Marshall's contributions.
In comparing the two seasons, I found that they were overall pretty similar in terms of passing statistics - similar yards, ypc, passing TDs, etc. However, there was an increase in all three categories from 2009 to 2010. The biggest influence was probably on total passing yards: 3170 in 2009 to 3527 in 2010 after the addition of Marshall...so about 350 yards or 11%. The YPC increased from 6.2 in 2009 to 6.7 in 2010, an increase of 0.5 yards and an increase of 2 passing TDs from 2009 (15) to 2010 (17). The caveats to this analysis are that Henne gained a year of experience, the running game got considerably worse in 2010 (2231 in 2009 to 1643 in 2010, a 26% decrease), sacks increased in 2010 (34 to 38), and the number of total TDs went way down as well meaning the percentage of passing TDs increased quite a bit. So did we rely more heavily on the passing game in 2010? There were 12 more pass attempts in 2010 than in 2009...so I would say no. But without as effective a ground game, passing always becomes more difficult.
Another interesting fact I discovered was that contrary to my belief, Marshall's presence increased Bess's and Hartline's numbers. In 2010, Davone Bess had 3 more catches for 62 more yards and Brian Hartline had 12 more catches for 109 more yards. Clearly Marshall's presence on the field drew coverage away from Bess and Hartline, although the loss of Ted Ginn and Greg Camarillo may have also boosted their stats slightly (particularly Harltine who went from 6th in number of receptions to 3rd). However, as mentioned earlier, the overall passing yards only increased a little and Marshall had a great year with 1014 yards. So although Marshall's presence assisted Bess and Hartline, there was also a distinct decrease in the spreading around of the ball to other receivers seen in 2009 (where there was much more parity between the receivers).
In conclusion, I was not entirely correct in my estimation of Brandon Marshall's contributions to the Dolphins. He not only put up big numbers in a year in which the run game struggled, but his presence on the field also appeared to assist the other major Dolphin receivers. However, the overall impact he had on the passing game is debatable. While he caught over 1000 yards, the total yards of passing offense and number of passing TD's increased only a fraction of that in a year with more passing attempts and a more experienced quaterback. My conclusion is although Marshall did make our passing game better, he wasn't worth the headaches - penalties, off the field domestic issues, and negative attitude. I wish we had a good receiver to replace him, but my hope is that Bush, Fasano, Clay and Armstrong can fill in and we can have a year closer to 2009, where it is an offense receiving by committee.