By releasing Burress, Giants are latest team to say enough's enough
Teams are tiring of the antics of the likes of T.O., Cutler and Burress
Roger Goodell's focus on image has changed the climate in league
The decision to release Burress can be seen as a win for Tom Coughlin
Have you noticed the leading trend in the NFL this offseason? Teams just aren't putting up with the trouble-makers the way they once did. Dallas said enough is enough, and sent Terrell Owens on his way. Denver took all it could take of the Jay Cutler saga, and then swiftly cut ties. Jacksonville didn't look the other way this time with Matt Jones, and now he's an ex-Jaguar.
And Friday afternoon it was the Giants' turn to decide their patience had been exhausted when it comes to Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress. He's the latest NFL star to suffer a self-inflicted career wound -- both literally and figuratively in his case -- thereby alienating the franchise that has rewarded him handsomely.
I say good for the Cowboys, Broncos, Jaguars and Giants.
You can't blame any of those teams for coming to the realization that it just wasn't worth the headaches any more. They might have all had their own sense of timing and reasons behind the moves, but the message they collectively sent is unmistakable: No one is irreplaceable. No one is untouchable. Screw up enough, whine enough, pull the self-centered act enough, and eventually teams are going to say enough's enough. Turn in your playbook, and don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.
I think the ever-decreasing tolerance is an obvious byproduct of commissioner Roger Goodell's attempts to shine a spotlight on the player-conduct issues that challenged his league when he succeeded Paul Tagliabue in 2006.
I know in the cases of Owens and Cutler we aren't talking about off-field legal issues that led to their demise in Dallas and Denver, respectively. But the climate within the league for bad behavior of all types has changed, and I think that movement started when Goodell made cleaning up the NFL's image his first major focal point as commissioner.
Not everyone got the memo, of course, even after Michael Vick and Tank Johnson and half the Cincinnati Bengals' roster got arrested. This offseason alone, the plight of Browns receiver Donte' Stallworth stands as a sad and tragic cautionary tale, and Bills running back Marshawn Lynch has surged into the unwanted spot atop the one-more-strike-and-you're-out list.
In Burress's case, had his arrest on that gun possession charge last fall been the only trouble he had found in his four years in New York, I'm convinced he'd still be a Giant today, at least while he awaits his fate in the legal system. But we know Burress had started the process of wearing out his welcome with the Giants long before that, drawing a laughable number of fines and even team suspensions for being chronically late to everything, self-absorbed to the detriment of his own teammates, or dismissive of the idea of playing or practicing through injuries.
All of that was seen as just Plax being Plax, but today Burress finally reached the limits of just where his upside became not worth his downside. The timing of Burress' release certainly seems to indicate New York had no stomach for waiting it out to see whether his case will reach a plea agreement before its scheduled June court date. On Tuesday of this week, his case was adjourned for those extra two months, and that may have been two more months of uncertainty regarding his fate than the Giants were willing to endure.
I don't think I'm taking a wild guess to interpret Friday's decision to let Burress go as a win for Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who months ago made no real secret of his readiness to move on as an organization without the Burress. Giants general manager Jerry Reese, knowing No. 1 receivers don't grow on trees, was more cautious, and let it be known the door remained open for Burress's return should his legal issues be successfully resolved.
But that door just closed, and we still don't how Burress's case will turn out, or whether or not his career will be interrupted or even ended by a prison term. The Giants are cutting their losses and moving on, even though they know they don't currently have anyone on their roster who is truly capable of replacing Burress. Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham and maybe a first-round-receiver-to-come might take up the slack, but nobody can say for sure just yet.
Even with those unknowns, the Giants came to the same conclusion that the Cowboys came to in regards to Owens, the Broncos in regards to Cutler, and the Jaguars in regards to Jones. They may not be better off on paper without their skill-position stars, but they're better off in other, less tangible ways. And that kind of addition by subtraction is becoming more popular all the time.
Enough's enough is the mantra of the moment in the NFL. With the Giants giving up on the guy who 14 months ago snagged the game-winning catch in the Super Bowl, the league just struck another blow for the notion that the trouble-makers just aren't worth the trouble any more.
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