Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t the first wide receiver to be a distraction, nor is he the first professional athlete to struggle with maturity and emotions.
“A lot of great talents in all sports are going to have rough patches at the beginning of their careers before they grow up,” The MMQB guru Peter King said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think Tiki wold be really good to talk about this. Tiki did not enter the NFL as this transcendent talent. He didn’t enter the NFL as . . . the answer to the Giants problems. He came in as a moderately celebrated player out of Virginia and he worked his way into a position of great prominence so that by year six, seven, eight or whatever, there’s no better all-around running back in football. So Tiki Barber basically comes in and he earns his way and he has some rough goes and he fumbles and everything, but he basically earned his way there. On his way there, he’s beaten down a little bit.”
Beckham, 23, didn’t have that. He had 187 catches for 2,705 yards and 25 touchdowns in his first 27 games. This year, however, he has 22 catches, is averaging a career-low 13.8 yards per catch and is yet to find the end zone.
“Odell Beckham Jr. comes in and he’s the best player on the team almost from the time he steps in there and everyone is telling him how wonderful he is,” King said. “And the first time he truly hits a tough patch is when he goes up against Josh Norman last year and everybody’s criticizing him. And he’s gone six games now without scoring a touchdown, so there’s a little bit more criticism for him. Then maybe a marginal call goes against him in the Minnesota game, so he starts sulking. He’s going to grow out of it, I think, but I think everybody is right to stand up – and Eli Manning is right to stand up at the end of the game – and say, in essence, ‘Kid, you got to grow up. We can’t have that.’”
On the surface, Manning seems like the perfect person to approach Beckham.
“I think it has to be somebody on that team who he really respects,” King said. “I think that it’s one thing for Eli to do it, but Eli is going to say the stuff that essentially is to be expected. They went to the same high school in New Orleans and I’m sure (have known) each other well for a while, but I don’t know that he’s the guy. I think in this case that whether he likes it or not, he’s got to listen to his head coach. And to me, I think that one of the things – even though as much as I admire Tom Coughlin – that’s one of the things last year toward the end of the year that really made it hard for Tom Coughlin to keep coaching the team. He looked the other way for most of the game against Carolina. I just think it’s got to be a coaching deal and it’s got to be a peer deal, whether it be Victor Cruz or whoever he’s close to on the team. They got to just say, ‘Hey, man, settle down.’”
Players are going to be emotional. That’s the nature of football, and that’s the nature of the NFL. But Beckham’s woe-is-me routine has to end. Beckham thinks everyone want to see him fail, which is, in a word, ludicrous.
“Are you crazy?” King asked. “Do you know how exciting a player Odell Beckham Jr. is? Nobody wants to see him fail, other than fans of the opponents in the division and maybe Josh Norman.”
In the AFC, meanwhile, Tom Brady will return to action for the Patriots this week. King doesn’t think rust will be much of a factor for Brady, but Rob Gronkowski’s health might be.
“In the last two weeks where he has suited up, he has been involved in 14 pass plays, so he’s been an absolute, total unequivocal non-factor in the Patriots season so far,” King said. “If you were to tell me that Gronkowski is going to be healthy and he’s going to play 65 snaps this week in Cleveland, then I would tell you I really like Brady to come out and win 38-10 and all is right with the Patriots’ world. But if you can’t tell me that, then I’m going to say obviously I like the Patriots to win. I like the Patriots to win by probably a lot. But they’re an absolute different team when Rob Gronkowski either is invisible or not used.”