The New York Giants Must Outsmart the Plaxico Trap
Many people think the Giants are doomed if they don't replace Plaxico Burress with a big-time veteran wide receiver. Not just fans, but a majority of mainstream media, beat writers, and their like have published strong opinions to that effect.
I thought so too, for a time.
It is easy to see why people would think so, seeing as how Plax's blunder cost his team the 2008 postseason. But it is harder to see how everyone is missing the point, namely that the 2008 Giants collapsed due to their game plan...not Plax.
As I opined several months ago, losing Plax was so catastrophic precisely because the offensive game plan relied entirely too much on his presence.
He bears his share of fault, namely for putting a hole in his own thigh, but it was not his fault the Giants collapsed as a result. Plax is a football player, a drone, not the team strategist who made him so crucial in the offensive scheme. The 2008 Giants' problem was rooted in the game plan, not Plaxico per se.
Even the horrid play calling we witnessed was an extension of the failed game plan.
Calls to replace Plax actually amount to a call for more of the same: a thin playbook based on a power running game plan denominated by Plaxico Burress—the same strategy that tore apart at the seams late 2008.
Is this really the offensive game plan Giants fans want to see rehashed in 2009?
Bear in mind that despite Super Bowl glory in 2007 and an 11-1 run in 2008, it turned out the incumbent strategy was much too precarious. A normal football injury might as well have been a bullet hole; either way the Giants' offense would have collapsed, whether it happened to Plax or some other peer receiver.
Yet it appears lots of people do want more of the same, considering the tone of the many analyses and op-eds out there, not to mention fan comments therein.
I pity the panicked fans who worry if Hakeem Nicks, our round one draftee, can fill Plax's shoes. Even more incredulously, some believe the free agency improvements we made to the defense and spending high draft picks on receivers were merely bargaining chips to service a trade for some Plax-caliber receiver.
I concede it is possible that, if the Giants really want to double down on the 2007-2008 game plan again in 2009, they will acquire Braylon Edwards, Anquan Boldin, or some equivalent receiver at all costs.
But the Giants' organization has not forgotten how that game plan turned out. I don't know about GM Jerry Reese or Tom Coughlin, but my wound from that spectacular breakdown is still open fresh.
Reese clearly still feels it.
Passing up the free agency market and drafting rookie receivers instead was a clear signal he wants to move forward. I think the Giants brass knows the 2008 unraveling was due not to the loss of Plax, but rather to the team tapestry into which his role was woven; it was really the game plan that failed.
Fans calling for a Plax replacement should be careful what they wish for, and experts should know better.
The mainstream fixation on replacing Plax demonstrates that many Giants' watchers are missing the point, namely that to successfully move forward one must reconcile instead of replicate the past.
Too many salaried journalists have shown they do not understand the past, suggesting that they don't really think about what they're writing. While the casual fan is excused, journalists deserve no such reprieve.
It makes me glad football organizations are not democratically run and to see that Reese knows better (so does Brandon Jacobs). Moving forward, he understands that nothing helps a transitional offense more than a fearsome defense.
I predict this is exactly what the Giants will get in 2009, if the rookie defensive coordinator holds up.
Our first-class defensive line just got a whole lot deeper and is now arguably world-class. The linebacking corps, perhaps the weaker defensive unit, received a nice boost in free agency and the draft. The secondary is populated by talented backs with experience of the highest standard. On average, the Giants' defense is just entering their prime.
More than anyone in the offense, the big question mark looms over coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Though he likely masterminded the Plax game plan, he needs to prove he was also a victim of bad fortune, and that his play calling circa late 2008 was really not as bad as it looked.
This will largely define our overall success in 2009.
If 2009 brings with it a fresh new game plan, we must take care to retain lessons learned. When the 2007 playoff Giants upset opponent after opponent, they looked in the mirror and learned just how "perfect" an imperfect team can be.
Defeating the "perfect" Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, then falling flat after a near brilliant 2008 campaign—the Giants learned just how imperfect a "perfect" team can be.
These are valuable lessons that make champions. With that in mind, I look forward to the 2009 campaign without Plax. And, for the record, as Plaxico Burress is no longer a Giant, herein will be the last time I refer to him affectionately as Plax.
September can't come soon enough!!!!!!!!
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