EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Losing can bring out the worst in people. It can make others see the worst in people, too. And that might explain why the Giants see Brandon Marshall as a leader who can bring their locker room together, while Sheldon Richardson sees him as a "drama queen" who ripped the Jets apart.
It's a contrast that's so hard to reconcile, really. On the one hand, the Giants have spent months hailing the leadership, maturity and positive nature of the 33-year-old Marshall, the big receiver they were so thrilled to sign this offseason. On the other, there are the relentless attacks of Richardson, the Jets defensive tackle, who escalated their feud on Monday by portraying Marshall as a divisive, self-centered, "drama-queenish" receiver who quit last season on his 5-11 team.
The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle, far from either extreme. Marshall is and was a leader in both locker rooms, with a very hands-on style.
The Giants say they love that. Ben McAdoo once called him "a breath of fresh air" in their locker room and Eli Manning hailed him as "a great leader." The Jets had no apparent issues with him either back in 2015 when they were enjoying a 10-6 season.
But last year, when they spiraled to 5-11? Not so much.
It really is, though, a matter of perspective and interpretation. Just listen to what Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa said about Marshall at the end of last season, on how Marshall contributed to the destructive feud with Richardson that never really went away.
""For me, with Brandon, I always make sure that I hear the message rather than the delivery of the message," Enunwa said. "It's not easy for everybody. When I sit down and I talk to him and I listen to what he's saying, I know why he does what he does, and he says what he says. It's frustration. You go through 10-plus years, and you don't make the playoffs …
"It's not like he doesn't know what he's talking about when he says it. There were times when what he was saying wasn't coming across the way other people wanted it to. And when we're losing, it's hard."
What that sounds like is that Marshall was a practitioner of tough love, that he called out his teammates when he thought they needed to be called out in an attempt to get the Jets headed in the right direction. When it's put that way, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that. It sounds exactly like what a leader is supposed to do.
But in his radio interview on Monday, Richardson put it another way.
"We lose and he did little things that were drama-queenish," Richardson said on ESPN Radio's The Michael Kay Show. "Dogging out this guy, that guy. It's everybody's fault except his. And there's a reason this, a reason that, and everybody pointing the finger when you losing, and then no one wants to say something to him."
Same thing, different perspective, different interpretation. And here's something else to consider: Would Richardson have been more receptive to Marshall if the Jets had been a winning team?
That's kind of what the Giants are counting on. Publicly they won't acknowledge any of Marshall's past locker room issues, but privately they admit they had some concern over what happened with the Jets, and the fact that Marshall - really one of the top receivers of this generation - is now on his fifth team in 12 NFL years.
He's also looking for his first playoff berth, and the Giants are convinced that a truly realistic shot at that with a team coming off an 11-5 season and primed for a Super Bowl run will keep Marshall in check. They also believe his leadership style will play differently on a team that is consistently winning. For proof of that, just read back on how people spoke about Tom Coughlin before and after the Super Bowl XLII championship.
For the most part he was the same coach with the same leadership style. It was the winning that cured all.
Yes, Coughlin made some adjustments. Marshall indicated that he will, too. The Giants didn't make him available to the media on Tuesday, so he couldn't respond directly to Richardson's latest attack. But in the immediate wake of that ugly feud, here's what he said at the end of last year:
"In retrospect there may have been a time or two where, after games there's so much emotions, so if you approach a situation with calmness and a cool head, it doesn't mean the next man will," Marshall said. "You've got to be able to not only understand where you're at, you've got understand where the next man's at. I think in retrospect I could work on my timing."
He did add that, overall, he was "totally fine with my approach" to leadership. And he also said "My only motive is to win ball games. I'm tired of watching the playoffs on my couch."
So no, Marshall didn't push the right buttons with the Jets last season and he probably overstepped his bounds with Richardson and the defensive players. But that doesn't mean he won't push the right ones with the Giants - especially if they're pushing the winning buttons, too.