TAMPA, Fla. — This is the first day of the rest of Odell Beckham’s football life.
He needs this day, and the rest of the days that follow, to leave New York and Giants ownership and Giants fans slack-jawed and breathless over his football genius, instead of the doggone theatrics that have earned him scorn and derision.
At 0-3, the Buc stops here, the season is on the line if you still cling to believe there is light at the end of this dark tunnel … and for these three desperate hours under another scorching sun, these Giants who cannot run the ball or stop the run and this 36-year-old quarterback will turn their lonely eyes to No. 13 as this 13-game season begins and ask for every ounce of his football greatness.
And, once and for all, let nothing and no one detract from that greatness, doggone it.
Shape up and show us you deserve that monster contract, or eventually ship out.
All of it — the Page Six/TMZ fame, the celebrity, the brand — began with The Catch. Beckham was simply a football player back then, a rising star beginning an innocent climb to the stratosphere where he knows legends live.
Eli Manning needs Beckham now more than ever to help him win games, starting with this game. And Beckham needs to show his owners, general manager, head coach, teammates and fans that he can be committed to discipline and poise and win back those fans who have grown tired with his propensity for self-destruction.
Beckham’s ankle is healed, and whether it is coach Ben McAdoo or offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan or owners John Mara or Steve Tisch acting as the playcaller, it isn’t difficult to figure out that in the absence of a running game, not trying to get the ball in Beckham’s hands is death-wish insanity.
The Giants were not the same team without him, or with him considerably less than 100 percent. They would not have had that 24-point fourth-quarter explosion in Philadelphia without him.
They cannot sustain drives and keep their reeling, overtaxed defense from wilting in the heat without him. And now that Manning and the passing attack has seemingly awakened with a vengeance and remembered what swagger means, no one will be disrespecting it the way Eagles coach Doug Pederson did by going for it three times on fourth down.
And if there isn’t enough incentive for Beckham to show he is finally house trained in the wake of his Wednesday sit-down with Mara, consider this: The Buccaneers drafted Mike Evans with the fifth pick of the 2014 draft, seven picks before the Giants drafted Beckham.
But this ultimately isn’t Beckham versus Evans.
It is Beckham versus Beckham.
This was an intervention of sorts by Mara so that Beckham can kick this narcissistic habit, this addiction to attention that will no longer be enabled or tolerated by the organization. Better late than never.
Tisch is the only man to win a Super Bowl and an Oscar. Beckham’s job isn’t to be nominated for an Oscar. It’s to get the Giants back to the Super Bowl. And at the moment, he is a long shot to even get the opportunity to win his first playoff game.
Cornerback Ross Cockrell recalls what it was like game-planning for Beckham last season when he was a Steeler.
“Don’t let him take the top off the coverage,” Cockrell said, “and one of the things that we liked to do is just get our hands on receivers and disrupt routes, disrupt timing, so that was one of the things that we tried to do with him.”
Cockrell was asked if anyone is similar to Beckham.
“Not really. … he does a little bit of everything. … If I was gonna say anybody, I would say he’d be a little bit more like Antonio Brown, but he’s bigger than Antonio,” Cockrell said, “he’s much bigger.”
Through it all, Beckham’s teammates still love him.
“You see guys let the fame kill the morale of the locker room,” Dwayne Harris said, “but he’s just a guy who comes to work, practice and do his job and then he goes about his business. I think that’s what makes him special.”
What makes him special is what he can do that few can. But he is on notice now that it is time already to do it by channeling his raging passion in the right direction and stop being a distraction to himself and to his franchise.
The first day of the rest of Odell Beckham’s football life could be the last day of the 2017 Giants football lives, because only one team, the 1992 Chargers, has ever come back from 0-4 to make the playoffs. The Giants desperately need him to prevent it. And if he can’t, he better not punch any holes in any wall.
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