By Jason Keidel
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With each passing season, we become better versed in the cold calculus of pro sports. As soon as they swept the confetti from the Superdome floor, even the teams who just played turned their attention toward next season, the machine of industry too powerful to pause for a Super Bowl. No team, no matter how talented, returns intact in today’s NFL, where the salary cap has put a price on depth, yards, scores, need and nostalgia.
Nowhere was that more evident than five minutes west of my computer, where the Giants cut a key member of their football team, whose fingerprints are all over two Lombardi trophies.
Ahmad Bradshaw, as much as anyone, has embodied the Giants, a microcosm of its nose-above-water run to two championships. We hear about the myriad maladies that Bradshaw must endure in order to put his pads on, often not practicing during the week but summoning just enough strength to play on Sunday. And he’s hardly Carl Pavano, who let a pulled butt muscle sideline him for six months. Bradshaw plays with serious pain for marginal gain.
The Giants made a perilous decision. They’re banking on David Wilson and Andre Brown — two younger, unproven backs — to develop into Brandon Jacobs and Bradshaw at half the price. (And in Jacobs’s case, a fraction of the friction.)
Less and less value is placed on running backs, what with all the violence legislated out of the passing game, wide receivers galloping unimpeded through secondaries and flags thrown when safeties sneeze on them. And quarterbacks may as well wear red jerseys during games, like they do during practice, a de facto “Do Not Touch” sign on their backs. But as we saw with San Francisco, a good running game still plows deep into the playoffs.
Maybe it’s the right move, cutting what they consider a pricey player with brittle bones. But it’s hard to swallow when you consider that Bradshaw is just 26, would run with one leg and would play for relative pennies. He’s got two rings and is considered among the grittiest players in the NFL. He’s due less than $4 million this year. The salary cap is $121 million. If healthy he’ll give you 1,000 yards in his sleep and 4.5 yards per carry. In the two years he carried the ball 200 times, he reached both marks.
Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese coated Bradshaw in verbal bouquets.
“Pound for pound, Bradshaw is one of the toughest players I’ve been around.” Reese said.
“Regardless of the circumstances,” said Coughlin, “he’s going to give you everything he’s got.”
That’s not worth two percent of your budget?
Can the Giants assume that Wilson and Brown — the former with fumble issues and the latter already with the injury bug — will wear the crown with Ahmad’s mettle? There’s enough weight on Eli Manning without two variables behind him in the backfield.
Maybe this is what football has become, an indifferent deference to finance. Keep the quarterback at any cost, and just shovel the leftovers at the rest. Of course, as a Steelers fan, I think Bradshaw would look rather dapper in black & gold. The last time we had someone with his surname it worked out pretty well.
Do you agree with Keidel, or was it a good business move to cut him? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…