ORLANDO — The coach, who worked for ex-Giants boss Ben McAdoo last year, wanted to be clear on Monday morning: “Odell’s not a bad guy at all.”
That’s what you’ll hear, too, from most people around Giants wideout Odell Beckham. He’s well-liked by his teammates. He’s fun to be around off the field (and, I’m not joking here, an amazing dancer). He’s one of the most gifted receivers ever to set foot on an NFL field, and a fierce competitor to boot.
So it probably sounds weird to hear it. But the Giants have to consider trading him.
The latest in the four-year-old soap opera’s that’s been Beckham’s NFL career unfolded here over the last 24 hours. His boss, team co-owner John Mara, addressed the media at the outset of the league’s annual meeting, and didn’t back down much from his stance of last fall. It’s simple: Beckham needs to grow up.
“I’m tired of answering questions about Odell’s behavior and what the latest incident is,” Mara said. “I think he knows what we expect of him, and now it’s up to him.”
What they weren’t looking for? News, 12 hours later, from NFL Network that Beckham wasn’t going to show up for anything, for any team, until he had a new contract in place. In a vacuum, an owner calling for a player to mature publicly isn’t a very big deal, nor is a player threatening to hold out in hopes to forcing an organization to move at the negotiating table.
But put those two together, and add Beckham’s history, and it becomes harder and harder to see a clear path out for a new Giants regime looking to fumigate a place that became a three-ring circus in 2017.
The idea of Beckham growing up sounds simple. Getting there will be complicated.
You can go down the list. There was the trip to Florida during a playoff week in January 2017. There was last spring’s pseudo holdout, complete with social-media activity that threw his absence in the face of both the team and its coach. There was the dog-peeing celebration. And now this—an immediate “pay me or else” salvo back at the club just hours after the owner said he was sick of Beckham’s antics.
There’s a common thread here, of course, and that’s defying the idea that he’d have to play by the same rules as everyone else. Last fall, just before Beckham was lost for the season, I talked to a scout who’d been around him since he was at LSU, who insisted this sort of behavior wasn’t part of the 2014 first-round pick’s file coming out. I asked the scout if he’d pay Beckham if he were the Giants. The answer came back: no.
“His message there is basically, ‘I’m the best player on your team, and if you don’t let me act like this, watch out,’ ” the scout said.
There are those in the Giants building who believe that stardom came too fast for Beckham, and that he didn’t adjust to the attendant scrutiny fast enough. That would explain his series of on-field donnybrooks with Josh Norman, and, more recently, how he put himself in position to be caught on camera by a woman in a Paris hotel room, either lacking the awareness to consider how his fame could ignite such a circumstance or not caring about the potential consequences.
And there are others who’ve been through the Giants building over the last couple years who believe Beckham could use the shock of being put on the block.
No matter what you think, it’s undeniable that this just got very tricky for new coach Pat Shurmur and G.M. Dave Gettleman. If the Giants acquiesce and give Beckham the outsized contract he wants just to get him in, they’re signing off on who he’s been over the last four years, and most coaches would tell you that giving a player a pile of money usually won’t do much to change a player.
Ideally, the Giants would be able to get him in and working within the new program before making that kind of investment. But if Beckham is serious, then that option is being taken away from Gettleman and Shurmur. And if they try to wait him out, they’ll be basically be creating the storyline for the next few months at least, as they try to rebuild a 3-13 operation.
Or they can trade him, which isn’t that crazy of an idea.
Here are the top receivers on the Super Bowl champions of this decade: Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz, Anquan Boldin, Golden Tate, Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, Edelman again, and Alshon Jeffery. Meanwhile, more pedigreed stars at the position of this era—Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Antonio Brown—don’t have rings. Neither, for that matter, do this year’s Hall of Fame receiver inductees, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
I’ll be clear about this—I don’t think the Giants should deal him this second. I think they should try to get him in and get him on board, and pay him after he shows that he is on board. But if he won’t do that, this whole situation, as Mara implied, is getting to the point where it may not be worth the trouble anymore for the Giants.
Over the next few weeks, Giants players will filter back to work for the spring, and they’ll all be paying close attention to the standard Shurmur and Gettleman have set, and how it applies to each individual. A year ago Beckham proved the standard in McAdoo’s program to be loose, and an implosion of the locker room followed.
Shurmur has to do what it takes to avoid that. Even if it means considering what may have previously been unthinkable.
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