Whether you're someone who believes Odell Beckham loves being a Cleveland Brown or desperately wants to be traded, he needs to have a great season in 2020. Whatever motivations that people place on Beckham now or when he was with the New York Giants, his best pathway forward to the goals he wants to achieve in the NFL relies on him producing like a star.
The worst case scenario for Beckham would be to carry the perception he forced his way out of New York, then proceed to have back to back mediocre seasons with the Browns, given what he showed capable in his first three years in the league. So while many dismiss Beckham's proclamation that he's going to have one of his best years as simply being that time of the year (and it is), it's also in his best interest to focus entirely on making that a reality.
Beckham's first year with the Cleveland Browns was supposed to be the marking of a radical change within the franchise as well as on offense. A big time star, a proven NFL commodity that people who don't care about football know by name was in Cleveland with a similar energy that LeBron James had a member of the Cleveland Browns. Most any place in the United States and a few other countries, there's a chance you could see someone wearing a Beckham jersey; especially kids.
His popularity among children and younger fans is palpable. And while the acquisition of Beckham was to win games first and foremost, that element of juice was certainly a welcome part of the package. Then general manager John Dorsey bought into it and tried to use it to highlight the Browns as an 'it' franchise. And it worked. Expectations went through the roof and the Browns were a topic of conversation on a national stage. After giving young fans in their backyard little reason to embrace the Browns for the better part of two decades, they got a reason for young people with no attachment to this team to like the Browns.
But as been commonplace the last quarter century, when the Browns are on a national stage, it's usually for the wrong reasons. Beckham played with a groin injury the entire 2019 season. His running mate and closest confidant in Cleveland, Jarvis Landry, played with a hip injury. Other than the first drive of the season and four quarters against the Baltimore Ravens, the team was a mess the rest of the way.
Beckham couldn't simply outwork or will his way past the groin injury as he thought he could. It impacted him. The team looked awful and the combination of Baker Mayfield to Beckham never seemed to work. It just looked off and while it was dismissed as a lack of reps early, it became pretty clear something else was at play. Mayfield didn't play well, seemed to be playing through pain and so was Beckham. It proved frustrating for both.
After about ten to eleven months of living with pain all day everyday, Beckham forgot what it felt like to feel healthy, to feel good. Getting to feel that way now, finally, it's no wonder he feels like he can conquer the world. And even for those that subscribe to the notion that Beckham doesn't want to be in Cleveland, he wants to be great and he's in Cleveland; he can't do one without the other.
Regardless of where Beckham wants to end up in the NFL, the best path to get there involves being great for the Browns this year. Good organizations aren't looking to give up assets to acquire a perceived problem player who makes a ton of money. They also aren't inclined to pay them like stars, so if Beckham were to have a poor season while hoping to leave, it would all but ensure he stays in Cleveland longer. Meanwhile, being great in Cleveland would make him a star on a team with a fanbase desperate for success.
It also reduces speculation on Beckham, which wore on him and at times appeared divisive within the team. Players don't want to answer questions while losing. They really don't want to answer questions about rumors regarding teammates where they can only be wrong while losing. It put added stress on a locker room that was already frustrated.
From the Browns perspective, a proclamation from Beckham hopefully means an implicit understanding that he is going to do much as he individually can to eliminate these types of distractions, particularly when it comes to issues with coaches and the organization.
Kitchens was a mess last year and both Beckham and Landry emasculated him during games. Maybe Kitchens was so ill-equipped for the job deserved it, but it was an unprofessional look that made them look bad and the team look dysfunctional in addition to making Kitchens look like a joke. And their wide receivers coach from last year, Adam Henry, who he and Landry knew from their time with him at LSU and Beckham knew from the Giants, paid the price for it. There's been talk that the relationship between Henry and the talented pair of receivers became too familiar, emboldening them to run over the coaches. Henry was not retained and is currently with the Dallas Cowboys.
That cannot happen in 2020.
There simply cannot be situations where players, frustrated, going on tirades at the head coach on the sideline. There's no question football is an emotional game and things happen that can cause tempers to flare, but there's no place for that on a team that has a chance of being good. No one's doing that to Bill Belichick or John Harbaugh during games. And it happened on multiple occasions. There are plenty of labels attached to Beckham that may not be fair as it is without adding coach killer to the list.
The Browns organization. led by general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski, is confident they've been doing what they need to engaging with Beckham, getting him to buy in and stay excited. Given the offenses that Stefanski was a part of with the Minnesota Vikings, Beckham might see what they were able to do with Stefon Diggs and be excited about the possibilities.
As a guest on Good Morning Football, Berry said of Beckham:
“We’re a better team with him on the field. We see him as a long-term member of the organization. We really like how he’s acclimated and adjusted with the new staff.’’
All of these are positive signs that this will be a better fit with Beckham in year two. Just becoming a more functional organization, something that was downright ridiculous at times in 2019, should benefit Beckham. And rather than worrying about expectations, hype or dealing with pain, he can simply focus on being a great football player.
The reality with Beckham is he's complicated and often misunderstood. He means well, but doesn't always know how to express himself and things he does or says in the heat of the moment get taken to the absolute extreme. Then when he says something thoughtful, it often gets dismissed in favor of whatever he said or might have said rashly.
Beckham has had his share of foot-in-mouth moments, always having to learn the hard way from mistakes, but he is passionate about his career and his desire to win. If the Cleveland Browns win, Beckham will likely be as excited as anyone about the team's success. Combining that with an outstanding individual season and Beckham can get back to be where he wants to be; a desirable weapon warranting a top contract at his position.