With the NFL season drawing to a close and only four teams remaining, 28 teams are facing decision time. Now is the time to shop for new personnel and evaluate talent. For two teams in particular, there is a difficult dilemma at hand. Last year, America's team, the Dallas Cowboys, were 13-3 and just two wins away from the Super Bowl. But a devastating loss to divisional rival New York, ended their season abruptly, and launched what would be a year of turmoil in Big D. On the other hand, New York triumphantly moved to a Super Bowl title. However their success wouldn't stop there. In 2008, the Giants emerged as the best team in football, marching to a 10-1 record. But then, much like the current of last year's NFC leader (the Cowboys), the tides turned abruptly on the Giants' season as well. Losing 3 of their last 5, including a playoff loss to the Eagles, the G-men found themselves in the same unexpected waters the Cowboys had landed just a year before. Now obviously this unfortunate fate had been the cause of multiple factors, however, one common characteristic stands out. Ironically, it's the drama of two wide receivers that wanted nothing more than to stand out. But not like this.
Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress love the spotlight. If Owens could, he'd tell the whole world of his greatness. Burress is less outspoken in the media, but no stranger to standing out from the rest. Or at least, no stranger to standing far from Giants' team meetings. Owens has an unparalleled work ethic, but can't keep his mouth closed. Both are undoubtedly ego-centric. Burress seems to put his own matters ahead of the team, and Owens seems to think his matters, are everyone's matters. If Owens was the offensive coordinator, every play would be designed for him, yet he'd still be disatisfied, because he wasn't getting the ball on special teams and defense. Burress on the other hand, doesn't complain about his touches. But he makes it seem like he should, always acting as if he doesn't care both on and off the field. Both players are so problematic it's amazing the Giants and Cowboys put up with them. But they do. Why? Because they're damn good wide receivers.
Plaxico Burress has missed countless meetings, violated innumerable team rules, and most recently, shot himself in the leg. Take a moment to let that set in. He put an illegally-possessed gun in his sweatpants pocket, and accidentally shot himself in the leg. It's hard to think of things that stupid. And yet, the Giants stand here today, contemplating welcoming Burress back to the team. Star players Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, & Justin Tuck want him back. Jerry Reese said he was considering it. Heck, as a Giants fan, I want him back too. It's amazing isn't it? As stupid and as ill-conceited as he is, we still want him back. Football wins trump character. Sad, but it's the truth.
Terrell Owens leaves a trail of drama wherever he goes. He single-handedly ruined two football teams: the 49ers and the Eagles. However, the Cowboys still took a chance on him. There was no denying his football talent. People were disgusted with him as a person, knew he brought problems wherever he went, yet would still love to have him on their side. TO has launched a few quarterback's careers and brought success to many programs. But he still has no Super Bowl ring to show for, a horrible public image, and list of enemies long enough to fill every seat in Texas Stadium. Odds are though, he'll be back in Dallas next season.
Dallas and New York really find themselves in quite the predictament right now. Both GM's and owners are facing a lot of pressure from their big time cities to produce winning football teams. It's up to them to decide the best way to ensure that. Keeping the stars in place seems like the most logical answer, but with their recent struggles, it is time for them to take a step back and decide whether the benefits of these stars outweigh the costs. At this point, it's tough to say. I'm glad it's not my decision.
But if I had to make the choice for both teams, I think I could. Let's take a look at both players.
Burress' numbers were down this year and the backups played well in his absense prior to the incidental shooting. However, when his season was over, defensive approaches against the Giants changed, and the Giants offense slowed down. Sure Burress' numbers weren't great, but it wasn't just about the numbers. Plax drew double coverage and opened up the offense for other receivers in single coverage. Regardless of his numbers, defenses had to respect him. In the red zone, the 6'5 Burress was a huge target. His combination of speed and length was near impossible to cover, and his big-playmaking ability (see here) was one of the most valuable assets to the Giants offensive attack. He brought elements to the game that no other wide receiver could match. The Giants offensive success with Burress in the lineup doesn't lie. With Burress, the team averaged 29.2 ppg. Without, just 19.6. Unless the Giants can trade for another big-time wide receiver, or trade-up in the draft for Michael Crabtree, I think they have no choice but to bring Burress back. There's no question Burress brings a lot of negatives to the table for the Giants. But it's the significant positive impact that cannot be overlooked. As a Giants fan, I can only hope he'll come back looking to avenge the poor decisions of his past. He hasn't shown me he's capable of doing that, but if shooting himself doesn't change that, I don't know what can.
His track record isn't the best. But on the field, he's one of the best. Even so, as of late, he hasn't been in his prime. He's become one of the league leaders in dropped balls and has been non-existent on the field at times. The Cowboys added big-time wide receiver Roy Williams as well, which puts even more pressure on Owens to perform. Fortunately for him, Romo hasn't been notified that Williams is on the team, as Roy's numbers would indicate. TO is a phenomenal athlete and has been an all-pro wide receiver for many years now. He's backed Romo and brought him to fame as a quarterback. But enough is enough. The talk has done nothing for Owens. Until he learns that if he doesn't shut up and allow the offense to work as a cohesive unit, not a unit centered around him, he won't get that Super Bowl ring. If I were Jerry Jones, I'd give Owens one more chance. Romo's injury likely cost Dallas a playoff spot, and there's no telling what could have happened if that hadn't been the case. Even so, the Cowboys had a trip to the playoffs in their hands, and let it slip away. If I were a Dallas fan, I'd hope the shellacking by Owens' former team, Philadelphia, wakes Terrell up to the shocking reality that if he doesn't change his ways, there will be no championship in his future. We'll see if the sight of Donovan's success without him, will be enough motivation to finally get Owens thinking clearly.
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