For the second straight season, the New York Giants have released an important vocal leader and contributor on offense. Ahmad Bradshaw possessed an indispensable quality which is hard to find in offensive players. Bradshaw carried an unrivaled mean streak and desire to punish the opposition; something the Giants will find hard to replace.
The business side of football is a necessary evil. One which causes GMs to make the "right move," but could force the team to suffer specific and debilitating consequences.
Due to cap constraints, the decision to release Bradshaw in February made perfect sense, and still does to this day.
New York has two talented young running backs in David Wilson and Andre Brown. Both of these players seem poised to take the reins and provide a spark to Big Blue's running game.
Along with Bradshaw's cap hit and young depth behind him, were the chronic issues he had with his feet. With a myriad of concerns continually holding Bradshaw back, the team rightfully cut him loose.
The "debilitating consequences" previously mentioned as a result of this release are not a result of anything tangible. The 1,000-yard season Bradshaw recorded in 2012 is not important. The game-winning touchdown he scored with his derriere in Super Bowl XLVI surely has no impact on what his release means to the team in 2013.
The difficulty in replacing Bradshaw, a seventh-round pick with character issues out of college, comes not from "what" he did as a Giant, but "how" he did it.
Bradshaw came ready to play every Sunday, and he wasn't in a particularly good mood most of the time.
The ornery attitude No. 44 showed on the field was almost always felt by the other team. Whether it meant lowering his shoulder pads to gain an extra yard, or delivering a bone-crushing block in pass protection, this stalwart was happy to acquiesce.
The same combative style Bradshaw presumably brought to his "Call of Duty" console was what personified him on the gridiron.
You could make the argument that, to a fault, Bradshaw ran for his life. A never-say-die attitude fueled him.
It was a mentality which led to numerous forced fumbles from behind because of Bradshaw's refusal to be taken down. It's what propelled him to a massively important 23-yard carry through and around the Green Bay Packers' defense prior to halftime of a 2011 divisional round playoff game. It's also what caused him to score an aforementioned Super Bowl-clinching touchdown with his butt (the guy was not wired to try to not score, despite his best efforts).
Every player wants to win in the NFL. Few players give off the impression that they need to win.
Ultimately, the amount of adrenaline it took for Bradshaw to be able to play through pain directly led to his aggressive style of play.
In years past, Brandon Jacobs would slowly wear down a defense and allow Bradshaw to finish the job late. In 2012, Bradshaw predominately played a part in both roles, a testament to the importance of his presence.
Now, with their emotional leader on offense destined for a new club in 2013, a new energy must be infused from the backfield.
Luckily for New York, two players will take on this burden. While Wilson and Brown combined will easily eclipse the numbers Bradshaw posted last season, they can only hope to match the attitude and adrenaline the former Giant brought to the team.
The electric running style of Wilson, an already established special teams star, will provide a big jolt to New York's offense.
Brown will complement Wilson's big-play ability in a unique manner. Brown will be asked to carry a significant amount of the load next season.
In a sense, Brown could be used early in games to inflict pain on the defense, similar to the job Jacobs had in past seasons. Once New York asserts its aggressiveness onto opposing teams, Wilson's speed on the edge could become an even bigger factor than anticipated.
Each of these players will be tasked with providing a spark for the offense, not only by carrying the football effectively, but also by protecting Eli Manning consistently.
Wilson and Brown have no choice but to morph into emotional leaders on offense.
Low-key stars such as Manning and Hakeem Nicks will not be seen slapping players on the helmet or getting in a teammate's face anytime soon. If the New York Giants expect to be successful as a team in 2013, they'll need their young running backs to take a page out of Bradshaw's book and bring an incomparable passion to the game.