There may not be an NFL analyst in the business right now more charismatic than Marcus Spears. He brings so much energy and knowledge to ESPN's NFL Live each week.
Spears, a 2005 first-round pick from LSU, spent the majority of his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. As a result, he's usually brought on air whenever his former team is making headlines, which is pretty often.
What makes Spears so fun to watch on ESPN is the fact that he's never afraid to speak the truth. "The Big Swagu" isn't afraid to ruffle some feathers if he has to.
It's no secret that Spears has become an exceptional analyst at ESPN. His love for the outdoors, however, isn't as well-known. He did show his appreciation for the outdoors on social media this week though, as he spent some time at the 2021 Bassmaster Classic.
We sat down with Marcus Spears to discuss his time at the Bassmaster Classic, what the Packers should do with Aaron Rodgers, if the Cowboys are the favorites in the NFC East and much more.
The Spun: Tell us a bit about Academy Sports + Outdoors’ 2021 Bassmaster Classic Celebrity Fishing Tournament. Why did you choose to participate in the event?
Marcus Spears: It’s my second year doing it. Last year, we were in Alabama. This year, we came back to Dallas, which I’m fairly familiar with. Academy does a phenomenal job, but the most important message are the charitable donations that come out of it. I really have a lot of respect for this company. I really understand their mission and the things they try to do. Anytime I can associate myself with them, I try to make myself available.
The Spun: How was your experience out on the water this morning?
MS: It’s competitive, man. I’m actually a fisherman and a hunter, so the outdoors is my natural spot. I love fishing and the competition part of it. It’s been my release. When I was playing in the NFL, I hunted and fished on days off. It’s something I’ve continued with my son, so it makes so much sense for me to be a part of what Academy is doing.
The Spun: As an athlete, how do you think your experience today at the Bassmaster Classic Celebrity Fishing Tournament compares to football?
MS: I think it's that the preparation doesn't guarantee a win. You can have all the right bait and the fish can be showing up on the fish finder, but they just don’t bite. Like football, you can be prepared and put all the hours in, but you’re not guaranteed a win. But oh when you do win, that’s what keeps you coming back. So I relate fishing to football a lot. For all the days you go out there and don’t have the type of day you want, the one day you do get what you want makes up for it.
The Spun: What would you rather have for a week: Stephen A. Smith yelling as your alarm clock or Dan Orlovsky as your chef for a week?
MS: Stephen A. Smith yelling because, brother, let me tell you something. If I had to have grilled chicken with no seasoning and broccoli for seven days a week, I’d give up on eating healthy for the rest of my life. I would definitely take the Stephen A. Smith alarm clock, I’d just hit snooze a lot.
The Spun: On NFL Live a week ago, you said the Cleveland Browns have the best roster. Can you explain what you really love about this team and if they’re Super Bowl or bust?
MS: I don’t think it’s fair to say Super Bowl or bust because I don’t know what step Baker Mayfield is going to take again. They’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders if he takes the next step though. Football is built simple and plain - are you good at the line of scrimmage? The Browns are. They have one of the best offensive lines and defensive lines in the NFL. Do you have playmakers? Well, they brought up over John Johnson III and Troy Hill in free agency. People have to remember the Browns were riddled with injuries when they were trying to make a playoff run, especially on the defensive side - Myles Garrett wasn’t 100 percent healthy.
We acknowledge and realize what Kevin Stefanski did from an offensive standpoint. They built the team the right way with that backfield, their tight ends can make plays, Odell Beckham Jr. should come back healthy, and Jarvis Landry is one hell of a player. They got crazy production from guys. What I based my take on was that hopefully with a year of experience all the younger guys will get better, Odell will contribute in a major way, and the defense will be much better and have Grant Delpit back at safety. From a talent standpoint, it’s there. When you look at other teams, you can find a lot of holes. There aren’t a lot of holes on Cleveland’s roster.
The Spun: From one playoff team to another, I want to ask you about the New Orleans Saints. You’ve been very fair when it comes to Jameis Winston. What is a realistic expectation for him this fall?
MS: I expect the Saints to make the playoffs, and I expect him not to turn the ball over a lot. I’ve said this for almost a year and a half now. As much as I criticized Jameis for some of his decision-making, I also said he needed a year to sit back and watch the game. He just needed to digest the game without having to play it. When you get taken first overall and have to play right away, you’re learning on the fly and never get to sit back and learn the game the right way. I know we think of Tampa differently now because Tom Brady is there, but Bruce Arians wasn’t the first coach there when Jameis got drafted. I think being with Sean Payton, being around Drew Brees and sitting back and realizing what he shouldn’t do with the ball will help. He’ll say ‘OK, I should throw the ball out of bounds.’ And then when you look at the rest of the roster, they’re good enough to compete with anybody. I believe Jameis will be significantly better and that’s because he’ll actually be asked to do less than what he was asked to do in Tampa.
The Spun: No division sparks a debate on ESPN quite like the NFC East. With that said, why are the Dallas Cowboys the favorites in your eyes?
MS: I’m as honest about the Cowboys as anyone you’ll ask. When they suck, they suck, and I’ll say that. Coming into the preseason, what are we doing? We’re looking at rosters and we’re asking who has the best quarterback. Dallas fits that title. Everyone focuses on the Cowboys’ defense and I understand that, but I know how bad you can look when you’re out of scheme and out of position, and that’s what last year’s defense was under Mike Nolan. That’s not an excuse, that’s reality. Richard Sherman playing man-to-man 99 percent of the time was not going to be conducive to him being a Hall of Famer. Him switching sides and following receivers around was not going to be conducive. That scheme and system he played with in Seattle was conducive to his skillset. I think Dan Quinn’s philosophy and defense fits the players on Dallas’ roster, so that’s why I think they’ll be much better defensively.
The offense is going to score 30 points per game, I have no doubt in my mind. Everyone talks about Dak, Zeke and the skill players, but don’t forget they had five offensive linemen who never played in an NFL game start against the Washington Football Team. What did you think was going to happen? Now, you have Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La’el Collins back. With a better offensive line, Zeke will be better. I think last year was the perfect storm of bad things for the Cowboys. I don’t expect that to be the case last year.
The Spun: What would you do if you were in Green Bay’s shoes right now regarding the Aaron Rodgers situation?
MS: I would 100 percent be trying to figure out how I can get as much compensation from the Denver Broncos as I could because that’s the team that should be trying to get Aaron Rodgers. I originally said the Saints, but the Packers trading within the same conference is wishful thinking. Sometimes you have to let go and say ‘We messed this up.’ You already took Jordan Love to plan for the future. The future has come a little bit faster than you wanted it to, but if you can get three first-round picks and a good player, you got to cut your losses. I get it, he was the MVP and one of the greatest to ever play. But all this situation is doing now is taking attention away from your young player getting better. Jordan Love is answering questions about Aaron Rodgers in camp as opposed to learning how to be a starting quarterback, which he’ll have to be because I don’t believe Aaron Rodgers is coming back.
The Spun: Which rookie quarterback are you most excited to watch?
MS: The one that I’m most excited to watch is Justin Fields. Chicago has been longing for a quarterback, and if Fields can deliver, he’ll be the man for a long time. Having an opportunity to play with a good defense and a playoff-caliber roster, if he can enhance that position, the Bears could make noise. I’m excited to see Justin play. All that talk about where he went in the draft doesn’t matter. Dak Prescott was a fourth-round pick. Now, he’s one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. All that matters after you get drafted is how do you prepare and how do you play. I’m also excited to see Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance. You want all these young guys to be in a good situation because we’ve seen what happens when they’re in bad spots.
The Spun: Which quarterback takes that next step and becomes an MVP candidate?
MS: I think it’ll be Josh Allen. I think he’ll have another magnificent year. I think Kyler Murray is in position to have a really good year. He got injured late last season, so his athleticism tailed off a bit. I hope this offseason he focused on operating from the pocket a little bit better because he was getting exposed a tad when he didn’t have that crazy out-of-the-pocket presence. I expect Kyler to come back strong, especially when you look at what they added. A.J. Green isn’t a world-beater anymore, but he requires attention. We know DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk are there and can produce. Another obvious pick is Justin Herbert. Can he follow up what he did with the Chargers? If he does, that division could get really serious between him and Patrick Mahomes.
The Spun: Which player is facing the most pressure this NFL season?
MS: It’s not even close, it’s Carson Wentz. It’s not even close. No player has more pressure on them than Carson Wentz. He had a terrible situation transpire in Philly and he went to a team where a coach put all his faith in him. So not only is Carson responsible for himself, he’s responsible for Frank Reich since he took a shot on him. People have to remember the Colts were a playoff team with Philip Rivers. Imagine the criticism Carson Wentz will get if they don’t make the playoffs next season.
Football fans can catch Marcus Spears on NFL Live every Monday through Friday on ESPN.
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