The number splits are pretty clear, but they're not necessary. No one who watched the Giants with Plaxico Burress and without him would argue anything other than this: Eli Manning and the Giants are far, far better with Plaxico in the lineup.
So it comes as no surprise that Manning and the Giants told the media they would welcome Plaxico back next season, shooting charges and all:
Asked point blank yesterday whether he would want Burress back, Manning said: "Sure. Sure. He's a tremendous player and ... we just gotta see what happens there." "Hopefully you learn from your mistakes," Manning said. "I don't know what the circumstances are, or what upper management thinks, and what's Plaxico's situation, so a lot is going on there."
It's not exactly "Please, Plaxico! Come back!", but as far as Eli Manning quotes go, it's pretty direct. There's no question Manning feels the same thing most Giants fans probably did -- that the Giants' passing game without Burress is barely a passing game at all.
Of course, things aren't just as simple as making up and welcoming Burress back to the team. Plaxico still has to deal with all of the legal issues surrounding his case, and if New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way, Burress will go to prison for at least a few years. Beating a gun charge is difficult enough; beating it with the full institutional force of the New York Mayor's office breathing down your neck is another matter entirely.
Still, if Burress can beat the odds, he could be back on the field next season. That's a long shot Manning and company seem willing to take.