Odell Beckham Jr. should be treasured, not targeted
The New York Giants top brass once again felt the need to defend wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on Thursday.
The team’s co-owner John Mara told a local radio station that the “one thing about that kid is that when he shows up at work, nobody works harder than he does. He’s so competitive, even in practice. He wants to win so badly.”
Mara was quick to add, however, that Beckham needed to control his emotions better. The three year veteran has infamously lost his temper or even broken down in tears during games in the past.
Spotlight in the Big Apple
Mara was forced to again defend the Giants’ superstar because of the New York media’s obsession with the three-time Pro Bowler.
Living and playing in New York brings its own set of challenges for sports franchises and the stars that play for them. Nowhere in the United States is the attention so relentless and unforgiving. The scrutiny can affect even the most experienced players. Nick Mangold, the longtime New York Jets center, told reporters in London two years ago that it was a blessing to escape the swirling cauldron of New York for the Jets’ International Series game.
With Beckham arguably the most famous player in the entire league – and having recently signed the richest shoe deal in NFL history to cement his status –playing in New York has led the pressure on him to be turned up to the maximum.
Much of the off-season ‘controversy’ stirred up in New York has focused on Beckham’s decision to skip Giants’ voluntary OTAs (with the focus on the world voluntary). Beckham, like many other senior veterans, chose not to work out until the mandatory mini camp.
When Beckham arrived at mini camp, he was wearing personalized cleats featuring the names of several publications, notably ESPN and the New York Post, with the word “Shhhhh” plastered over the newsprint. It was a typical tongue-in-cheek move by the wide out but one that should have brought smiles, not yet more criticism.
The criticism has focused not only on Beckham missing OTAs but also who he chooses to spend his time with, in particular pop superstar Justin Bieber and former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. As if one’s ability to play football is dictated by one’s friends.
This comes after the now infamous Instagram post of Beckham – and many other Giants it should be noted – on a boat in Miami, days before the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Beckham’s less than stellar performance in that game was blamed on the boat party but it was more likely to have come from the unnecessary attention that followed the Instagram post.
It was the players’ day off. The coaches had allowed the excursion. They weren’t drinking on the boat. Beckham wasn’t the only guy there. Yet for many in the media this sparked another feeding frenzy, with this innocuous post sparking an avalanche of questions and attention in the build-up to the most important game of the season.
It likely wasn’t the relaxing on a boat off the Florida coast that caused Beckham to have a rare off-day. It is far likelier to have been the constant media harassment in the build-up to the game, or quarterback Eli Manning’s erratic play under center.
The point here is that Odell Beckham has continued to produce for the Giants and is there single most important player. He flashes the inconsistencies that come with being a young player, but nobody can fault his production since arriving in New York.
Beckham has been a sensation in the NFL, reaching three Pro Bowls in his first three seasons in the league. He has amassed over 4,000 receiving yards and scored 35 touchdowns in just 43 games since coming into the league. Along with Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, Beckham is in the consensus top three players in his position in the league.
In addition to the production, Beckham is an entertainer. Not even Jones or Brown are able to make some of the plays Beckham can. The sky is the limit for Beckham and this once-in-a-lifetime talent should be cherished, not criticized.
The Giants know this and are rightfully backing their man. Despite some reports in the New York media, they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
One of the other high profile players from the 2014 draft class Derek Carr just got paid in a big way, earning the NFL’s most lucrative ever contract.
Now Beckham also wants to get paid. And he will, just not right away.
In his radio interview, Mara also suggested Beckham would have to be patient when it comes to a new deal.
“It’s not our No. 1 priority right now,” Mara said. “But we do want to get it done. We have some time to get it done. But I can’t give you a timetable on that.”
With the salary cap structure the way it is in today’s NFL, franchises don’t let stars like Beckham walk out the door. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t let it happen with Brown, just as the Cincinnati Bengals with A.J. Green.
Elite talent does eventually get paid and they usually stay put. Beckham is the face of the Giants and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Beckham isn’t worrying about it. The Giants aren’t worrying about it. Maybe the media should just give him a break too.