No Longer Bending Over Backwards for Beckham
2016 Postseason

No Longer Bending Over Backwards for Beckham

The Giants finally put their foot down and told Odell Beckham Jr. to grow up. Will he change, or will the edict ring hollow like the wall he punched?

Odell Beckham Jr. drops a pass in the end zone against the Packers.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Odell Beckham Jr. has the rare ability of making himself an easy target. On the field, he’s an otherworldly wideout who can shake double-teams and pull down the kind of one-handed catches that would make Spiderman blush. Off the field, he’s a one-of-a-kind tempest who, at the tender age of 24, was publicly admonished by his boss on Monday and told to “grow up.”

“We all have had to grow up at different times in our lives, and it is time for him to do that,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said of Beckham at his year-end press conference in the team’s field house. “He is a little bit of a lightning rod because of what he does on the football field, but the things he does off the football field, he has to be responsible for those things.”

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The Giants seemed to be moving in the right direction this season. Anchored by a Super Bowl-caliber defense, they finished with 11 wins and ended a four-year playoff drought. But it all ended with a 38-13 loss to the Packers in the wild-card round and, as coach Ben McAdoo put it, “a hole in the wall at Lambeau Field.” He wasn’t being metaphorical. According to multiple reports, Beckham allegedly punched a wall after speaking with reporters in his postgame press conference; ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio also reported seeing Beckham bang his head against a door.

Reese met privately with Beckham on Monday. In essence, the GM told his star player to stop acting like a hothead and be more accountable for his actions. “He heard the truth today,” Reese told reporters.

That the receivers went on a yacht excursion in Miami six days before the Giants’ first playoff game in five years—and unwisely publicized it on social media—had little to do with the fact that Beckham caught only four passes for 28 yards (and a career-low 7.0 yards per catch) on Sunday. The 14-degree temperature at kickoff, and the fact that Beckham had never played a pro or college game below 32 degrees, was a more likely culprit. He was targeted 11 times and dropped three passes, including one in the end zone. According to Pro Football Focus, he’d dropped only eight during the regular season.

How Beckham spends his days off should be of little concern to the Giants. How he seems to routinely lash out under pressure should give them great pause. For a man who makes his living with his multi-million-dollar hands, why would you ever punch anything and risk an injury? And to bang his head on a door? That goes far beyond the normal manifestations of “passion” and “competitive fire.”

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The most pressing issue for the Giants is that opponents are learning how to beat Beckham in the mental game. Consider the comments of Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who was on the field in December 2015 when Beckham found himself ensconced in a contentious mano a mano with Josh Norman. “When he goes out and he allows his emotions to get the best of him, he’s a cancer for that football team and you can see it,” Davis said of Beckham in an NFL Network appearance on Sunday morning.

Beckham’s 2016 regular season: He took a swing at the sideline kicking net in a Week 3 loss to Washington. He lost his cool in a Week 4 loss to Minnesota, taunting Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and an official. He was fined after a Week 13 loss to Pittsburgh for verbally abusing the officiating crew. After a Week 16 loss to the Eagles, multiple New York beat reporters saw him banging his head against a steel door in the visitors’ tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I see a guy who needs to think about some of the things that he does,” Reese said on Monday. “Everybody knows that he is a gifted player, but there are some things that he has done that he needs to look at himself in the mirror and be honest with himself about—and I think he will do that. We will help him with that, but he has to help himself, and we believe he will do that. He is a smart guy, but sometimes he doesn’t do smart things.”

Beckham wasn’t in the locker room during media availability on Monday, but Eli Manning didn’t shy away from questions about his favorite receiver. Immediately after the yacht controversy last week, the quarterback made a joke about his teammates’ packing ability for the warm weather—long pants, no flip-flops, seriously guys? But on Monday he said it was just an attempt to help his teammates escape from the scrutiny. “You’ve got to learn that the perception of things makes a difference,” Manning said, reflecting his true feelings on the matter. “If you do things, you have to back it up.”

In other words, stop making yourself such an easy target.

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