Brandon Jacobs became the latest Giants player to say the team should welcome Plaxico Burress back with open arms, despite the self-inflicted gunshot wound that ended his season prematurely. Jacobs went even further than most, saying that the team shot itself in the leg when it sent Plaxico to the showers.
"If we have Plax on our team, we go 15-1 and we win the Super Bowl. I'm not afraid to say that and I'll say it to anybody on any team," Jacobs said. "We had a different identity with him and we didn't have enough time to change our identity to be effective at what we wanted to do -- try to play a team differently. Teams -- I'm not going to say stopped the run -- but they did a little better each week because they had that eighth guy in the box."
While their ultimate destination will never be known, Jacobs is right about the impact Plax's absence had on the team. Their vaunted running attack was stagnant and the passing game offered no assistance during the Giants' meek departure from the playoffs. They need Burress, or a close replica, in order to be an effective offensive team.
But does that mean they don't need Jacobs? If simply having a top-flight receiver is enough to open up the running game, why wouldn't the Giants keep Derrick Ward, also a free agent, and sign another mid-priced back to replace Jacobs in the lineup? If elite running backs are able to beat defenses that pile men in the box, then might not Jacobs be elite back? If not, he doesn't deserve to get paid like one.
Nothing's quite that simple, of course. Jacobs is a good back and the Giants would be foolish to write off re-signing him. His comments are a reminder of just how much of a running back's success is contingent on others -- from the line to the receivers to the fullback -- and how little leverage they have in the NFL pecking order.