Mandel’s Musings: Plaxico Has Leverage with Giants

Published on: 29th July, 2011


Mandel's Musings: Plaxico Has Leverage with Giants  | read this item

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East Rutherford – In this crazy quilt, labor relations-driven world of the National Football League, circa 2011, instead of teams being firmly entrenched in their pre-season practice rhythms and tight schedules with a total focus on football, we are seeing instead, a series of breaking news stories driven by free-agent frenzy, player movement, and holdouts.  It has made these early days of training camp feel like a bizarro world, NFL-style.
Today fell right in line with that scenario.
Here, at the Giants’ Timex Performance Center, where the team was forced to relocate training camp from their traditional SUNY-Albany one-month sojourn, the first shocker was the acquiescence of the rigid, old-school head football coach, Tom Coughlin to agree to meet face-to-face with former Giant Super Bowl hero and ongoing pain in the you-know-what, Plaxico Burress.  

As everyone in Giant land knows, these two did not leave as buddies despite Burress’ heroics in the championship year of 2007. The wide receiver’s proclivity for lateness and his distaste for the “Coughlin Rules” used to drive the old coach crazy. When Burress accidentally shot himself in the thigh with a handgun he was carrying illegally at a New York City nightclub during the 2008 season, therebye ending his Giant career, you could have bet the ranch Coughlin had said his final goodbyes to the star receiver and his behavioral problems.

How times change, especially when two entities need each other more than they would ever publicly admit.
Make no mistake about it, tonight’s 6pm meeting is based purely on business, and mutual need. The Giants are desperate to become a better offensive football team than they’ve been since Burress left. They are also desperate to make Eli Manning a better quarterback than he has shown since he lost his top receiver almost three years ago.

There is some certainty that Coughlin would never have taken tonight’s meeting with Burress if the Giants were also well-fortified at the wide receiver position. But, they are not, especially with Steve Smith a long way from being ready to play after serious knee surgery.  It is also clear  Giants management (read that as John Mara) requested Coughlin sit  down with the recalcitrant Burress and determine if the 6’5”, 230 pound athletic marvel is prepared to be a team member in good standing, to Coughlin’s satisfaction.
Mark this down. If Burress expresses anything close to “coach, I want to be a New York Giant and I’m sorry I let you and the team down in the past,” Coughlin will green-light his approval for the contract negotiation process to begin between Giants general manager, Jerry Reese and Burress’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
This really is a potential marriage, uneasy as it might be, driven by mutually beneficial needs. Rosenhaus reportedly had presented his client with stories of high interest for his services once he was released from his 21-month long prison sentence. This has turned out to be untrue as only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Giants remain interested.

Whatever leverage Burress thought he had has disappeared, perhaps due to the way he ripped Coughlin so soon and so glaringly in the press after his incarceration was completed. It may have scared a lot of teams away from the physically-gifted player who seemed to still not understand the concept of good judgment.
However, with today’s other shocker, namely the Eagles swooping out of nowhere to sign the NFL’s second-best cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha when nobody thought they were in the running for the star’s services, the Giants hierarchy must be sitting in their offices here revising all of their prior offensive schemes in the file marked “Eagles Game Plan.” With Asante Samuels, newly-signed free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asomugha now manning (no pun intended) the cornerback position for Philadelphia, they have easily become the favorites again to win the NFC East title. Throwing against them successfully has now been made significantly more difficult.
Enter Plaxico Burress. Perhaps, the leverage meter has, in the blink of Andy Reid’s eye, turned back in favor of what Burress brings to the Giants table, particularly against skilled but shorter corners. If Plax is anywhere near the player he was the last time he wore Big Blues’ uniform, he will certainly be an asset in the red zone, where Manning has simply been unable to pull the trigger on big plays inside the 20-yard line for a couple of seasons, now. Burress was Manning’s security blanket on the field, a huge target who was fearless going over the middle but had the hands and speed to beat corners deep. The Giants have never replaced the unique skills Burress had.

No one is sure if he still has those skills after missing more than two seasons but the very fact the Giants may be willing to let bygones be bygones indicates how much this is a player’s market. Especially for one with such specialized talents. 

In the bizarro NFL, anything can happen. Even if the old habits of tardiness and outspokeness continue to run, unchecked.

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