I didn’t need to be an NFL insider to know that the idea of the Giants trading Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t inconceivable.
All I had to do was listen to sports talk radio. Because in New York, Giants ownership low-key pays attention to what the fans are saying, and two years ago a good portion of those fans—namely the older, wealthier, season-ticket-holding types that complain about stupid things like attending games that aren’t 1 p.m. ET kickoffs—couldn’t stand Beckham and his antics. You think olds find extravagant endzone celebrations and mock proposals to a kicking net endearing and worthy of franchise player status? No matter how good you are?
They would rant and rave about Beckham not being a winning player and a distraction. They would flood WFAN with their complaints. And the leader of that was the “Sports Pope” himself, Mike Francesa, who would sit in his pulpit and take shot after shot at Beckham, often suggesting the Giants needed to move on from him.
Two years after the noise started, and less than two weeks after Giants GM Dave Gettleman said the franchise had no intention of trading the receiver at the NFL Combine, they did the unthinkable: jettisoning their best player, with record-breaking talent, to the Browns in a transaction that shook social media.
And the only appropriate conclusion to come to after having less than 18 hours to digest the news is that the Giants are idiots and will regret giving up Beckham for such a meager return: a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and Jabrill Peppers. Seriously?!? That's it?!?
Beckham’s too good and too young, with too many game-changing plays ahead of him, to send off, even if you justify it by saying he creates distractions.
That’s a pittance for a guy who is inarguably one of the best athletes the NFL has ever seen, is only 26, and has a ton of big plays ahead of him. Beckham’s done things in his first five years in the NFL that no other wide receiver has, and he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. And he’s done it for a team that can’t get out of its own way despite having a quarterback that’s worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.
Yes, there are knocks on Beckham. He’s injury-prone and he’s far from a saint when it comes to avoiding what every NFL team considers its Kryptonite: distractions. Forget about what he does on the field with those elaborate, sometimes fine-attracting touchdown celebrations. Beckham’s every move is monitored off the field. He’s young, rich, and famous, and one wrong step, one wrong association, can set off sirens. Sometimes he says things that piss off suits and coaches who would prefer he be a mute. They hate that he has such a high profile.
Talent and charisma are a helluva a drug, and Beckham possesses more of those two qualities than arguably any football player we’ve seen since maybe Deion Sanders. And when you’re acting up and the team is winning, some of that is forgivable. But when your team has been disappointing for four of your five years and you do a few stupid things here and there, it doesn’t take long for you to become the villain.
The Giants have seemingly positioned Saquon Barkley, their awesome young running back, as the talent they want to build around and feature, while every sane Giants fan is wondering how Beckham became an ex-Giant before Eli Manning. Rumors about Eli and Odell not being the biggest fans of each other have surfaced recently, and maybe that played a roll in Beckham getting bounced out of New York before Manning, who is likely about to play his final season with Big Blue. The Giants made other surprising moves this off-season that indicate they’re looking to tear it down in order to build it back up. But if you’re intent on finding Manning’s successor in April’s NFL Draft and making the turnaround as quick as possible, wouldn’t it be better for that young QB throw to an all-world talent? Were they worried Beckham would be a bad influence? Were they afraid he’d act up even worse as the team entered full-on tank mode? What changed so drastically from last year, when you signed Beckham to a five-year, $90 million deal, to now?
There are a million questions to ask the Giants about why they did this, but it’s unquestionably a puzzling move—and I’ll go on the record as saying they’re going to regret it. Yes, wide receiver is for sure an interchangeable position in today’s NFL, almost as much as the running back position has become. But giving up a generational talent for what feels like very lame reasons and all you got in return was that just doesn’t make sense. Beckham’s too good and too young, with too many game-changing plays ahead of him, to send off, even if you justify it by saying he creates too many distractions.
You should be able to put up with them when he produces like his does—as long as he has a quarterback who can actually, you know, deliver him the ball instead of ducking an onslaught of pass rushers. And let’s be real here, as we saw with the ESPN interview conducted alongside Lil Wayne last season, the sound bites and distractions Beckham creates are not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. He’s never been in trouble with the law and has never done anything morally wrong like too many other players in the league. For output unlike that of anyone else in football, you find a way to smooth over the “issues.” Now, the biggest issue for the Giants will be getting used to even more losing and the glaring lack of legendary game-breaking talent at wide receiver. Godspeed to whoever replaces Eli Manning.