Tom Coughlin Only Winner in Burress Mess

The list of losers in the fallout of the Plaxico Burress shooting is long and indistinguished. The hospital, Antonio Pierce, the team's offense and Burress himself are at the top of the list. There is one winner, though, and it's the guy who has been having one of the best years in the history of New York sports.

Tom Coughlin finished 2007 holding onto his job by the skin of his teeth. The Giants were 4-4 in the second half and were the same inconsistent, undisciplined team that they'd been throughout his tenure. Two days before the year ended, they lost in noble fashion to the Patriots, but no one was sure what that meant for 2008 or for Coughlin's future.

Turns out it was the prelude to Coughlin's ascent to power. The Giants won the Super Bowl, obviously, and are 15-1 in all games played this year. That would make Coughlin strong enough all on its own. The way that he's done it, though, has made him the most powerful man in the franchise. Nothing having to do with an individual player -- injury, insubordination, criminal activity or otherwise -- will get in the way of the team. If you aren't on the field buying into Coughlin's system, you don't matter.

The Mara family, as team owners, will likely get some credit for the quick choice to jettison Burress. They shouldn't. Remember Christian Peter? The former defensive tackle had a rap sheet much longer than Burress' and a playing career that doesn't measure up, yet the Maras were more than happy to have him as a blight on their roster for four years.

Coughlin's team will miss Burress at some point. Somewhere in the playoffs, Eli Manning will look to throw a ball high in the end zone where only Burress could come down with it, but number 17 won't be there. The Giants could have kept him behind the glass you break in an emergency, straddling the line between looking tough and looking out for themselves. That's not Coughlin's way, though, and that's why Wednesday's decision strengthens Coughlin's stranglehold on his team.

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