Reality check on Plax

Plaxico Burress is caught in an issue that is bigger than he is. (Mark Duncan / Associated Press)

Plaxico Burress' hearing has been adjourned until Sept. 23. (Mark Duncan / Associated Press)

After careful reflection on the Plaxico Burress situation and in light of the Donte’ Stallworth saga, I have to admit the scales of justice are a little askew. As you know, Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter. His negotiated penance is 30 days in jail, two years of house arrest and eight years of probation. Whether you agree or disagree, a moral precedence of sorts has been established.

In looking at the Plaxico situation, it does seem skewed that he would be looking at 3½ years for shooting himself in the leg, albeit in a public place. Some would say this is apples and oranges, and I can’t offer much to refute that claim.

Plax’s stupidity has landed him in the middle of a larger issue for the “New Jack City” of New York: crime. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has done a tremendous job governing, and I support his initiative to clean up violence in the Big Apple. Unfortunately for Plax, he is caught in a Nino Brown situation because the firearm problem is bigger than Plax.

Being a New York Giant served as a detriment instead of the customary get-out-of-jail-free card some say has been issued to Stallworth, because in my view the Giants handled the situation wrong. One of the billionaire owners should have called the billionaire mayor to give him the heads up when the event happened. If you go back to Bloomberg’s comments, he was particularly agitated that no one from the Giants called him. Consequently, Bloomberg gave his fire-and-brimstone response.

I have been quite critical of all the dumb things that continue to plague Plax. However, in fairness, I think there is a distinction that needs to be made, especially given the unfortunate loss of life in the Stallworth situation. Plax will likely spend more time behind bars, and the self-inflicted wound may have killed his career if he has to serve extended time.

What Say You?

— Jamie Dukes

Catch me on Twitter: @jamiedukes

Don’t blame Bowlen for stupid moves

Brandon Marshall is still under contract to the Broncos, so I have to temper my disdain for the complete dismantling of an NFL franchise. A lot of people place the blame on the owner of the Denver Broncos, Pat Bowlen, and the reality is that the ire is misguided. Bowlen is a businessman who did not become a billionaire because he knew some unique secret that revolutionized the NFL.

Bowlen made a legitimate decision to replace Mike Shanahan, and while I don’t agree with the firing, I agree with the stated reason. According to Shanahan, Bowlen lives by a business axiom that sometimes change is good. The Broncos were at a point of diminishing returns, in Bowlen’s mind, and so he made the move.

Enter Josh McDaniels. McDaniels convinced Bowlen that he could move faster by bringing in Matt Cassel. In my mind, McDaniels’ theory was flawed, but I’m sure it sounded good to the billionaire businessman who just handed the reins to the boy genius. From the football intellectual perspective, there is really no argument Bowlen could have offered, especially given the fact that McDaniels sold himself to Bowlen.

Because of the exploits of Jerry Jones, there is a perception that every owner has the same insights. That is a flawed assumption. Most NFL owners are businessmen. At the end of the day, they are making gut decisions on the guys that they hire as coaches. That is a far cry from having some kind of football genius.

Now Marshall is on his way out of town. According to reports, Marshall met with Bowlen and the team is reportedly entertaining the idea of trading the Pro Bowl wideout. “The Boy Genius” has obviously let his ego get in the way. This will potentially be the second Pro Bowl player to leave the NFL’s No. 2-ranked offense.

Pat, it’s not your fault, but it’s obvious you’ve hired a boy with a boy’s temperament to do a man’s job.

What say you?

Jamie Dukes

Commish must suspend Stallworth for one year

Donte' Stallworth will serve 30 days in jail, two years house arrest and eight years probation for a DUI charge. (Alan Diaz / Associated Press)

Donte' Stallworth will serve 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to a DUI manslaughter charge. (Alan Diaz / Associated Press)

According to the reports, Donte’ Stallworth will spend 30 days in jail, two years under house arrest and eight years on probation.

Stallworth is doing what the knucklehead former Giants diva WR Plaxico Burress should have done: Admit his culpability, accept his penance and move on with his life. By doing so, Donte’ has evaded the inferno of prison. But I believe he should still receive hell’s fire from Roger Goodell.

This is a particularly difficult blog to write because I think Donte’ is a nice kid and has been a positive influence despite his injury-plagued history on the field. However, I think we have to be careful with this situation because a man lost his life.

The precedence for my opinion is Vickapalooza. Whether under his control or not, Michael Vick has missed two seasons. Chances are, at best, Vick would have been suspended for at least one season if he was given the same punishment as the bums who were actually killing the dogs — which was, by the way, no jail time.

Not suspending Stallworth for a year, in my opinion, would be diminishing the value of a human life. I know this may not be popular, but there is no animal on this planet that is more important than a human life.

What say you?

— Jamie Dukes

Belichick is the NFL’s ‘Zen Master’

Few can argue that Phil Jackson might be the best coach in the history of professional sports. Ten NBA world championships in the modern era speak for themselves. But upon closer examination, I find similarities between Jackson and New England Patriots coach.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (left) is being compared to Lakers head coach Phil Jackson as being a "Zen Master" in the NFL. (Associated Press)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick (left) and Lakers coach Phil Jackson are regarded as two of the most successful coaches of their respective sports.(Associated Press)

Jackson strategically has based his attack on the Triangle offense, which is a hard-to-master discipline for players. Few teams in the NBA utilize the principles. Belichick has stapled his strategy on the 3-4 defense, also a tough discipline to master. It’s not a surprise that many NFL teams now are attempting to utilize it; but to date, the Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers and Patriots are the only teams to master it.

Jackson likes to mingle young talent with veteran leadership. In like manner, Belichick has continually gotten the last bit of juice out of veterans at the tail end of their careers. The additions this season of Fred Taylor, Shawn Springs and Joey Galloway likely will bear fruit just as the addition of key veterans has done in the past.

Finally, Jackson is renowned for giving his players books to read. Not just any books. Books that Jackson feels will make the person grow. The Patriots are renowned for having the highest collegiate graduation rate among NFL teams.

So I ask you, is Belichick the NFL’s Zen Master or are you still holding onto the joke that was Spygate?

Jamie Dukes

An act of mercy

Falcons owner Arthur Blank (right) says he would like to see Michael Vick back playing in the NFL. (Associated Press)

Falcons owner Arthur Blank (right) says he would like to see Michael Vick back playing in the NFL. (Associated Press)

Let’s hear it for Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons. Last week Blank released QB Michael Vick. Not because Vick was damaged goods. Not because he was involved in a horrible crime (and he was). Not because he was trying to make a political point.

The decision to release Vick was a simple act of mercy.

Blank is true to his word when he says that he wants Vick back into the league. Blank was more hurt personally than he was financially by Vick’s immature actions. It runs so deep that Arthur and his lovely wife, Stephanie, had unofficially adopted Vick.

My NFL Network colleague Marshall Faulk can attest. There was an incident on an elevator at the Georgia Dome in which Stephanie Blank was not too happy about some of the criticism of Vick leveled by Faulk, and she let him know. There is no doubt that Faulk knew what he was talking about — but the broader point is the family had a kinship with Vick.

On the surface, it would appear that Blank was letting Vick go for expediency sake. The truth of the matter is Blank earnestly wants Vick in the league. In fact, he has said the league would be better with Vick in it.

Vick’s release by the Falcons is simply an act of mercy to remove any contractual obstacles that would get in the way of another team looking to sign him.

— Jamie Dukes

Signing puts Sanchez on fast track to be Jets’ starter

Let’s hear it for the new Prince of New York, Mark Sanchez. He’s the prince until he wins more rings than Eli Manning.

In this day and age, when we lambaste greedy agents from keeping their players from camp because they are trying to suck the blood out of billionaire turnips — better known as owners — Sanchez got a deal done early.

That all but puts him on a fast track to be the starting QB for the Jets in Week 1, baring some egregious play in the preseason, which certainly is a possibility. By getting this deal done early, he gives himself a chance to be successful because there will be no interruption in his development. There will be no scenario of ninth-hour negotiations forcing Sanchez to miss time and the pivotal reps required of a young QB in preseason camp.

This model served Falcons billionaire turnip Arthur Blank well last season when he got Matt Ryan in camp. Conversely, how far behind did JaMarcus Russell get because he missed all that time in the preseason in Oaktown?

— Jamie Dukes

Favre is the real victim in this whole saga

Since Packers GM Ted Thompson (center) made Aaron Rodgers the starter in 2008, Brett Favre was left with little option in Green Bay. (Associated Press)

After Packers general manager Ted Thompson (center) made Aaron Rodgers (right) the starting QB in 2008, Brett Favre was left with no option but to leave Green Bay. (Associated Press)

Brett Favre would still be a Packer if the front office didn’t push him out the door.

Did Packers general manager Ted Thompson force Favre to retire? No. But he made it clear enough to Favre that he wanted to get his guy, Aaron Rodgers, who had waited three seasons for the job since he was a first-round pick in 2005, into the lineup. So what was Favre to do? The fire was still in his belly, but the clock was working against him.

If Favre is guilty of anything, it’s having pride. His pride told him that he didn’t want to stay where he wasn’t wanted. It was 49ers coach Mike Singletary who said it best a few weeks ago: “Players want to feel wanted.” Favre felt Thompson wanted him gone.

I don’t understand why it’s a big deal that Favre wants to play football again. He should be allowed to play as long as someone is willing to sign him. The way I see it, Favre has done nothing wrong. He still has it. Look at last season — he played fantastic until he hurt his arm late in the season.

Look, I understand if you don’t want Favre on your team, but it’s hypocritical to say he should stop playing because you think it’s time for him to stop. What if I were to tell you that you have worked at your job long enough and it’s my opinion that you should look for something else to do? You would tell me where to go.

Favre is entitled to the same liberties as anyone else.

— Jamie Dukes

Adversity for Manning, Brady creates intrigue for fans

Every so often, we get bored with sports. Great players continue to be great. Stupid players continue to be stupid. And, yes, Brett Favre retires and unretires (Sorry, got distracted).

Looking at the Colts, they’ve lost Tony Dungy to retirement, Ron Meeks to a clash of egos, Tom Moore and Howard Mudd to Pensionitis.

Things are in such disarray that the media-savvy Peyton Manning is letting the football world know he’s not happy with the latest turn of events. As for Tom Terrific (that’s Tom Brady for those of you who live on Mars), he is returning from season-ending knee surgery. As a guy who has had several lesser knee procedures, I can tell you that Brady has questions and concerns about his knee.

Whether or not we will admit it, sport at its essence can be reduced to mice running in a maze. Sometimes we tire of seeing the mice doing the same thing day in and day out and we like to change their obstacle course. Whether or not you agree with the metaphor, this season holds intrigue because we get to see how the multimillionaire mice react to the changes in their environment.

— Jamie Dukes

Release of Ellis reduces talent level in Big D

Someone please bring back the old Jerry Jones. Once again, the Cowboys’ owner tried to make an addition-by-subtraction move with a veteran, this time with the release of LB Greg Ellis. Ellis is one of those rare players who produces despite the fact that he’s on the bad side of 30.

Jones used this rationale when he let Terrell Owens go. Now he’s letting Ellis go to clear a way for LB Anthony Spencer to shine. Now, I know there’s a little history here because Ellis has felt he was underpaid — and he’s right. Ellis has averaged just over eight sacks per season over that last seven years, and that includes the year he blew out his Achilles’ tendon.

The Cowboys might win the Super Bowl next season, and some will say getting rid of T.O. was the reason. Bull-hockey. If they win, it’s because the quarterback who has been great in the first three months of the season finally finished the drill.

BOTTOM LINE: Getting rid of players like T.O. and Ellis has reduced the overall talent level of the Boyz in Big D.

— Jamie Dukes

Solution for Lions is signing Vick

To Stafford, or not to Stafford. That is the question for the Detroit Lions.

I’m not completely sold that Georgia QB Matthew Stafford is the right choice with the top overall pick in the draft, because the Lions have a multitude of issues. And most of those can’t be solved by Stafford. I believe he will be a fine quarterback in the NFL, but he’s not going to address the Lions’ major problem: TICKET SALES!

The solution for the Lions in my opinion is Michael Vick. Why Vick?

  • Rest assured the Lions would have one of the top three running games in the NFL next season with Vick under center.
  • Vick would help the defense because of ball control and his unusual propensity to keep the chains moving.
  • Most importantly for the Lions, Vick is “recession-proof” — he would sell out Ford Field.

Look, don’t send me e-mails about Vick. He was a part of HEINOUS act, and he has served his time — unlike a couple of other conspirators in the dogfighting ring.

Back to the Lions and their picks. The Lions should draft former Baylor OT Jason Smith at No. 1 to shore up their offensive line. They should use their second first-round pick (at No. 20) on the most disruptive defensive lineman they can find. I have them taking LSU DE Tyson Jackson in version 3.0 of my mock draft. The Lions — who own three of the top 33 picks — should use the rest of their selections on defensive linemen to cover up stud linebackers Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims.

Jamie Dukes

Cutler trade a huge gamble

As it stands less than an hour after it was announced, the trade of Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos to the Chicago Bears could go down as one of the biggest gambles — that either did or didn’t pay off — in NFL history.

In recent memory, this is the closest thing that I’ve seen to a Herschel Walker-type trade in awhile.

When you consider the fact that the Broncos brought in Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator and a veteran like Brian Dawkins on defense, now it looks like organization has just set itself back for who knows how long. At the end of the day, quarterbacks are hard to find. A guy of Cutler’s ilk, it’s tough to just let him go. Of course you have draft choices, but draft choices are just that — an unknown commodity.

Everything is in question right now. Beyond this, we just don’t know.

So, the question I’m asking at this point is who is really getting the raw end of this deal? Is it Nolan, who has aspirations of being a head coach again? Is it the veterans like Dawkins? Or the whole team? What about Broncos fans? Or, how about the Bears, who are now getting someone that could be viewed as problematic?

The Broncos had no choice. They’re playing with the cards they were dealt. It’s a scenario where they had no idea the situation would get to this point. No one saw this happening.

From the Bears perspective, they’ve now answered a lot of their own questions. They’re Super Bowl-ready now. Now they have the quarterback to get them there. Was the price too high? I don’t think it was too high. Their defense is intact. Of course they’ll have to sign Cutler at some point, but they also would have had to sign the two first-round picks they traded.

I’m sure they’d much rather pay a known commodity like Cutler than two unknown draft choices. Think about it.

Which teams should be pursuing Vick?

Some offseason thoughts:

  • The Lions, Chiefs, Rams, 49ers, Jets, Bears, Buccaneers and Vikings need to consider picking up Michael Vick for the following reasons: Vick is recession-proof, as he will sell out the stadium. He will make the running game better for any team he plays for. He will make the defense better because of the disproportionate number of first downs he generates. Former coach Jon Gruden really likes Vick. He gave him the nickname “Starship 7” and was quoted as saying that he would create an offense for his exceptional talents.
  • Will the Chiefs deal Larry Johnson before the draft? New coach Todd Haley has a track record of not being able to deal with volatile players. There were issues in Dallas. He had issues with Anquan Boldin and — to some extent — Kurt Warner in Arizona. It is not the Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells way to have these kind of players on the team.
  • The Lions appear to be on the path of going with Daunte Culpepper. And based on the workout and evaluation on Matthew Stafford, the Lions may actually pass on the Georgia quarterback, which could create a domino effect. Stafford has all the skills but he is going to have to convince coaches that he has the understanding of the Xs & Os to make it happen given the amount of money it will cost the Lions. In years past this would not be as big a deal but given the economy, quarterbacks are quite pricey.
  • Ray Lewis –- Which team needs him more? Can the Ravens survive losing Rex Ryan and Lewis? Could Lewis make the Jets an overnight contender regardless of who’s playing QB? Will the Cowboys bring Lewis in to provide the leadership sorely missed in the locker room?
  • Julius Peppers turned down $90 million from the Panthers. Should the Panthers follow the track of the Patriots, who franchised Matt Cassel with the hope of getting draft choices for him? Are we about to see financial Armageddon with Peppers, Albert Haynesworth and DeMarcus Ware? On the surface it doesn’t make sense for Peppers to turn it down but at a closer review, it does make sense if the Panthers were not willing to guarantee as much as $40 million. Here’s the math these guys are looking at: The franchise number for Peppers and Ware is around $14 million. Add 10 percent to that number for the next year’s franchising and you have $30 million in virtual guaranteed money in two years.

Jamie Dukes

Owens not the problem in Dallas

Excuses, excuses. … There is speculation that Terrell Owens may be on his way out of Big D. I personally don’t believe that. I have always felt there was a conspiracy to blame T.O. as the source of the Cowboys’ woes.

For the record, let me state that T.O. is a different kind of cat. And like every great receiver I know, including Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss, just to name a few, T.O. is an unhappy camper if he’s not getting the rock.

Upon talking to some of the Cowboys over the last few weeks, it is clear that while excitable, T.O. is not deemed the problem among the players. Well, there may be a certain player who shall remain nameless that might have a problem with the “I love me some me” kid. Why? Because Owens is too honest for his own good.

According to some members of the media, Owens was being divisive because he pointed out what most of the national media was saying: “The vaunted Cowboys offense has gone stale.”

The irony is that if Peyton Manning would have made the observation, the world would have taken it at face value. Why is that? Because of T.O.’s baggage.

Baggage is something Owens will have to deal with because he made that bed. However, it’s time to place the credit and blame where it belongs. The success and failure of the Cowboys is squarely on the consistent play of the one that shall remain nameless. The media has planted the seed in the head of the nameless one that things would be better if T.O. was not on the roster.

A word of caution: If T.O. gets his walking papers, nothing will change because Roy Williams will call out his quarterback just like he did in Detroit. The only resolution to this equation is for the guy with the famous girlfriend to play in December and January like he plays in September.

What Say You?

Young QBs need to respect the game

(Al Bello / Getty Images)

(Al Bello / Getty Images)

I had a chance to visit with Eagles safety Brian Dawkins this week. I could be president of the Dawkins fan club, to go along with my responsibilities as president of the Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb fan clubs. There is a common denominator that goes with this respect. Respect for the game.

All these cats treat the game with respect. They conduct themselves with dignity, and they understand that in order to be great in this league, you must be a student of the game.

Manning doesn’t have any more arm strength than Matt Leinart. Vince Young has physical skills on par with McNabb. The difference is Manning and McNabb are willing to dedicate themselves to the craft. Being a quarterback in the NFL requires you to immerse yourself into learning the position for several years. It took Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselback and McNabb several years before they mastered the West Coast offense well enough to get to the Super Bowl.

When I think of Leinart, Young and many other young QBs, I realize they are “kinda QBs.” They kinda want to be good.

Young and Leinart can’t wait each offseason to go back to Austin, Texas, and L.A. to be the big men on campus again. Young promised his mother that he would get his degree, and that is noble, but he could do that through correspondence courses. Last I checked, you go to college to get a job, and both young signal-callers have $50 million-plus contracts, which means they have a job. Leinart is more puzzling because he has his degree from USC.

So the question is, will the light bulb ever go on for these talented young signal-callers? What say you?

Manning brothers face similar challenges in 2009

Just spoke with the Manning boys, and it’s so refreshing to see the pride Peyton has in little brother Eli. It’s also interesting to see the similarities in their situations. Both players have lost their defensive coordinators in Ron Meeks for the Colts and Steve Spagnuolo for the Giants. Peyton, of course, also has lost a future Hall of Famer in coach Tony Dungy.

More importantly, both might lose their top receiver. For Peyton, Marvin Harrison‘s skills have eroded to the point that he will either have to take a pay cut, or his pride will get in the way and he will part ways with the Colts.

Eli, on the other hand, most likely will be without his No. 1-with-a-bullet, Plaxico Burress, unless his lawyer can work a miracle. (Here’s an interesting footnote. I have talked to a couple folks in the know who believe Plax will not serve any time; one of the sources seems to feel there is precedent for giving Plax community service, because he is a first-time offender.)  Either way, the commissioner likely will slap Plax with a suspension in addition to the Giants’ four-game suspension.

As I look at both situations, I’m trying to figure out which QB will miss their guy more. On the surface, it seems the obvious answer would be Eli because of the missing dimension we saw without Plax in the playoffs. However, we have not seen Peyton be as successful without Marvin as when Marvin is in the lineup and at 100 percent.

Which Manning will be more affected in 2009? What say you?

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