Eli Manning is letting bygones be bygones when it comes to former Giants teammate Odell Beckham Jr and says he’s not only seen a significant and positive change in the receiver, he’s also thrilled to see Beckham have an opportunity to win his first career Super Bowl this Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams face the Cincinnati Bengals.
Beckham, who began his NFL career with the Giants, famously made headlines of the wrong kind during a 2018 bombshell interview with ESPN in which the receiver hemmed and hawed when asked if the team had an issue at quarterback.
"I don't know," Beckham said of Manning. " I feel like he's not going to get out the pocket. He's not -- we know Eli's not running it. But is it a matter of time issue? Can he still throw it, yeah, but it's been pretty safe, and it's been, you know ... cool catching shallow [routes] and trying to take it to the house. But I'm, you know, I want to go over the top of somebody."
That interview, believed to be the final test of the Giants' patience with Beckham, is thought to have set the wheels in motion for Beckham’s exit out of New York. The Giants ended up trading their 2014 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for safety Jabrill Peppers and the Browns’ first- and third-round picks in the 2019 draft, which the Giants turned into defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence II and outside linebacker Oshane Ximines.
Beckham, meanwhile, seemed to struggle in Cleveland, who ended up cutting him in early November. Beckham was scooped up by the Los Angeles Rams on November 12 when he signed a one-year deal with the team worth up to $4.25 million, which included a $500K signing bonus, a $750K salary, and up to $3 million in team-based incentives.
Beckham, who always spoke of wanting to win, now has a chance to be a part of football immortality if the Los Angeles Rams can top the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl this weekend.
Beckham struggled with handling the spotlight in New York but has fit in beautifully with the Rams so far. He has appeared in eight games with seven starts and has caught 27 of 48 pass targets for305 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season.
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Perhaps more importantly, Beckham, who seemed to make headlines while in New York for what he did off the field rather than on it, hasn’t had such issues in Los Angeles, where the media spotlight glare can be just as intense.
“Yeah, you wouldn't think LA, drama, and Odell - on paper it doesn't work,” Manning told New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen during Andersen’s Great Dane podcast. “I think it's just the fact that you know, he's just learned his lesson a little bit. He's grown up some.”
A big part of that, Manning believes, is that Beckham isn’t the main focus of the Rams team the way the receiver was when he was with the Giants.
“They have big-name guys there. They have (defensive lineman) Aaron Donald, they have (quarterback) Matthew Stafford, (receiver) Cooper Kupp, who has come in and led the league in receptions, touchdowns, yards, everything,” Manning said.
“So, he kind of gets there in the middle of the season, finds his role a little bit, and now all sudden, you're thrown in there. And I think they found out what he does best and what situations to put him in to excel.
“So he's thrown passes, he's catching passes. I think it's just the fact that he's kind of bought into that team effort. They're winning playoff games and are in a Super Bowl now (with) a chance to win a championship. Happy for him being a part of that.”
Manning also acknowledged that because Beckham became the focal point of the Giants’ offense, opposing defenses could zero in on him and limit his effectiveness. But in Los Angeles, having Kupp, who in his own right is a top-shelf receiver, has helped make a difference.
“When you had (Beckham) before, you were trying to put him at the right spot, to get him the ball, and forcing the ball,” Manning said.
“Right now, they're kind of doing that with Cooper Kupp. And Odell is seeing single coverage—he can just run his normal route tree. (The Rams) don't have to specialize things and move them around and be tricky; (they will) do that with Kupp. You just line up on the outside, run your route tree, win the one-on-one matchups; when we get one-on-one, we're coming to you. (Beckham) can win those.”