Plaxico’s Bad Decision

Plaxico Burress addresses the media

Plaxico Burress has said all the right things, and by all accounts done all the right things since getting out of prison after shooting himself outside a New York night club. Now, he is looking to put that episode of his life behind him and move on with his football career. He does have one person in the NFL he can turn to for advice, someone who has been down a similar path in the recent past. Michael Vick came out of prison after his incarceration for running a dog fighting ring and has made a successful return to the NFL. He has also done everything he can to show his remorse by taking up causes that promote animal welfare and adoption. He is speaking to children and other groups about his mistakes and what he has learned and from them. Plax has talked a lot about seeing all those positive things Michael Vick has done in Philadelphia and how he’d like to model himself after that.

“He’s been a good friend of mine for a long time. For him to come back at that elite level, it just shows a lot about him and his driveand his makeup. I’m just happy for him, and if it wasn’t for maybe him going through what he went through, maybe I wouldn’t be here today.” — Plaxico Burress on Philadelphia QB Michael Vick

I have a big problem with him using Mike Vick as an example. If he is going to that, the first thing he needed to do after he got out was to pick up the phone and sit down and talk with him–a loooooooong talk. I look at it like this: Vick went to Philadelphia, a team with order, respect, discipline, and strong coaching. Plax’s team of choice? The New York Jets, the antithesis of the Eagles. He made his decision after sitting down with both the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. He was also scheduled to meet with the San Francisco 49ers who just hired former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a coach that runs a clean, well-oiled, disciplined program. He had the chance to go to a team of Phily’s caliber. He could have gone back to Pittsburgh or to the New York Giants. He has won with both teams. Instead he chose a team that is more reality series hot air than Super Bowl contender.

Instead of heading to play for a coach with a Super Bowl pedigree, he chose to play for Rex Ryan, a coach that comes to press conferences in

Rex being Rex

costumes, makes guarantees of winning the Super Bowl every year, and based on the HBO series Hard Knocks, says “fuck” more often than the entire cast did in a season of The Sopranos. He is a coach that has verbally sparred with the most successful franchise in the NFL, maybe in all of sports, over the last 20 years, the New England Patriots. He has trash talked quarterback Tom Brady, New England’s three-time Super Bowl champ, two-time Super Bowl MVP, questioning his work ethic. Rex’s bark is truly worse than his bite. He can’t even lead his team to one Super Bowl. If he’s going to question anyone’s work ethic, he should start with his own. If he didn’t have to, he wouldn’t have needed to state: “We have to find somebody out there to beat New England besides us.” Has anyone even heard Tom Coughlin or Mike Tomlin speak since training camp opened? I think Vick would have told him to avoid a team like the Jets. He needs a place where he can go to work, practice hard, go about the business of preparing for the season without a three-ring circus going on just off the field each and every day.

Instead, he could have gone and played for Coughlin. A coach he may not have gotten along with in the past. In fact, the two were near divorce when Plax went to jail, but they did win a Super Bowl together. He knows the system. He knows the players. He and Eli Manning teamed up 244 times for 3681 yards and 33 touchdowns. Did I mention the Super Bowl win? If he was serious about changing his ways, he would sit down and hash out his differences with the coach. He also talked with the team that drafted him in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rooney family runs a fairly tight ship. There is a reputation of honor, of winning, of championships that has been established through decades of good play, hard work, and great coaching. Players are given some latitude, but they understand the expectations that go along with wearing the black and gold. It is a place where you go, work hard, play for your teammates, and don’t let things off the field control your emotions. These are the kinds of situations that someone emerging from jail needs. That was and continues to be a big part of Michael Vick’s success and resurgence in Philly. There are rules, there are restrictions and expectations. You’re expected to show up, work hard, learn your job, and prepare for each and every game as though it were the Super Bowl. You don’t go to the circus. No matter how much you try to ignore it, you are bound to become part of it, especially when your coach is the NFL’s equivalent to PT Barnum.

Michael Vick went to Philadelphia, a team loaded with veteran leadership on both sides of the ball. Players who commanded the controlled

Mike Vick warming up

the locker room. It can now be said that when others come into the fold, he is one of those veterans helping the new guys get acclimated. If Plax had followed the Vick Plan, he would have gone to one of a pair of quarterbacks who are both widely accepted as the leaders of their teams, veterans, and have gone a combined three for four in the Super Bowl. Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger know what they’re doing and they go in everyday to prepare themselves and their teammates physically and mentally to play each and every game. Instead he chose to catch passes from Mark Sanchez, a quarterback that, with weapons like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and LaDanian Tomlinson, couldn’t even reach the big game. He is playing with a quarterback that has trouble taking his team down the field and consistently scoring. The differences between the three are very telling…

Eli Manning:

2010: 339 comps    539 att    4002 yards    31 TDs     25  INTs    85.3 QB rating

Career: 1932 comps    3332 att    22646 yards    156 TDs    113 INTs    80.2 QB rating (7 seasons; 1 SB win, 1 appearance)

Ben Roethlisberger:

2010: 240 comps    389 att    3200 yards    17 TDs    5 INTs    97.0 QB rating

Career: 1766 comps    2800 att    22502 yards    144 TDs    86 INTs    92.5 QB rating (7 seasons; 2 SB wins, 3 appearances)

Those are the stats of the stars and leaders that Plax could have played with. In choosing the Jets, he chose to go to a place with an unproven quarterback that appears to lack the leadership to get his team to the Super Bowl. His stats don’t even compare to the other two…

Mark Sanchez:

2010: 278 comp    507 att    3291 yards    17 YDs    13 INTs    75.3 rating

Career: 474 comp    871 att    5735 yards    29 TDs    33 INTs    70.2 rating (2 seasons, 0 SB wins, 0 appearances)

Plaxico has been all about doing the right thing since he got out of jail. The problem is, he hasn’t. He is trying to say and do those things while wearing Jets green. In those colors, there will come a time when the pressure and the emotions of his teammates and Rex will be too much to overcome. Those are colors that give players the liberty to say whatever the hell they want whenever they want. They provoke their opponents. They make grand guarantees. Like Bernie Madoff, they write checks they can’t cash. Vick has listened to Andy Reid’s opinion and his teaching and it has worked very well. Plaxico, if he listens to Rex Ryan, will be in a lot more trouble than he needs to be in. There is no leadership on that team. No one to stand up and lead Plaxico down the path to redemption. Being with the right people people is just as important as saying the right things to the media.

Plaxico needs stability, discipline, strong coaching, and teammates willing to help keep him on the straight and narrow. He will not get that from the Jets and Rex Ryan. That goes against everything Rex believes and stands for. He’s more like that parent who wants to be their teenager’s best friend instead of a parent. He showed up at training camp sporting a tattoo down his leg. No way Coughlin or Tomlin do that. No even Andy Reid would do that, either. None of these men care about being liked. They’re there to coach and win football games to the best of their abilities. That’s how you win respect in the league–win Super Bowls, not talk about it. These are the men that Plaxico needs to surround himself with. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that’s what Plax has heaped to Mike Vick since his release, he would have signed with one of the other teams he talked to. Actions speak louder than any words ever will. Plax’s actions indicate, maybe he hasn’t learned as much as everyone believes he has.

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