Players most often come and go based on their production, or lack thereof. Odell Beckham Jr. has come and gone from the Giants and his departure has nothing to do with what he achieved or failed to accomplish on the field.
The Giants cannot, and did not, look at all the catches and yards and touchdowns and jaw-dropping plays and convince themselves Beckham could have done more. Trading him to the Browns, a deal consummated late Tuesday and made official Wednesday afternoon, ultimately came down to two separate but connected issues: What they could get for Beckham compared with how much energy they had to expend to keep him around.
There is an Odell-ness to Odell Beckham Jr. and, after five years, it eventually ran its course for the Giants. Some inside the building feel a sense of relief that the superstar receiver will no longer bring unwanted attention to a franchise that did not necessarily grow sick of him but grew increasingly exhausted trying to keep up with the issues and notoriety that clung to him the way the football stuck to his huge right hand.
There was no final straw here, no single moment since the season ended that convinced the Giants it was time for Beckham to go. If no deal the Giants deemed worthy presented itself, they would have moved ahead with Beckham. Coach Pat Shurmur was ready to embark on a second season with him. In haggling with the Browns, other players were offered, but the Giants held firm insisting on safety Jabrill Peppers and his inclusion in the transaction was the deciding factor, after the draft-pick compensation (the Browns’ first-round pick and one of their third-round picks) was agreed upon.
Beckham called this “a fresh start for me’’ and expressed his excitement about becoming a teammate of Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry.
“I will always appreciate the opportunity the Giants granted me and I’m thankful to them along with the fans and people in that city for supporting me,’’ Beckham said. “The Browns are an organization that is moving forward and it’s exciting to be a part of something special that is in the process of being built.’’
Certainly, this is a far cry from late August, when the Giants gave Beckham a five-year, $90 million contract. Why pay him if there were doubts they could win big with him? Well, general manager Dave Gettleman and ownership believe Beckham earned the money, based on his production his first four seasons. Also, and this should not be discounted, Gettleman did not want speculation about Beckham’s contract to linger and threaten to compromise Shurmur’s first season. Remember, Gettleman a few weeks ago said, “Part of the responsibility of the general manager is to eliminate distractions.’’
Sure, Gettleman stressed, emphatically and more than once, the Giants did not sign Beckham to trade him. It was a cleverly worded non-denial oozing with the impossible-to-track motive of intent. That contract was finalized before Gettleman or Shurmur spent any quality time with Beckham. Clearly, Gettleman and Shurmur in their only season with Beckham were not convinced this was an indispensable player. The Paris video came out early in Gettleman’s tenure, prompting co-owner John Mara, in Orlando during last year’s owners meetings, to state, tersely, “I’m tired of answering questions about Odell’s behavior and what the latest incident is.’’
The Lil Wayne interview last season so incensed Shurmur — when asked if the Giants had a quarterback problem, Beckham said, “I don’t know’’ — that he demanded Beckham face the music with his teammates. Shurmur clearly wasn’t pleased down the stretch of the season when Beckham’s quad contusion kept lingering and lingering. Then there was the “Odell doesn’t like water’’ dehydration circus. None of these flash-points was fatal, yet all of them completed the brilliant, yet abstract picture Beckham painted during his stay with the Giants.
The Giants know they cannot replace Beckham, though they believe they can figure out a way to win without him. They scored 40, 0, 27 and 35 points the final four games of the season while he was out. They are cognizant the very best receivers in the league rarely find their way to the Super Bowl. Getting the ball to Beckham was a joy and often a thing of beauty but often fraught with drama, now replaced by a spread-the-wealth mentality and plenty of Saquon Barkley.
Gettleman at the recent NFL Scouting Combine mentioned “a thing I used to call ‘the a–hole quotient.’ ’’ He explained the postulate: “The bigger the a–hole you are, the better the player you had to be. Think of the great players that you’ve seen around the league who have been just complete jerks. At the end of the day, what was the sum total of their career and their effect on their teams?”
At no time did Gettleman say he was referring to Beckham. Gettleman observed how the Antonio Brown situation devolved in Pittsburgh and that the Steelers got back only a third- and fifth-round pick from the Raiders, a pittance for such a gifted receiver. Gettleman did not sign Beckham to trade him, but once he heard an offer he liked, he sent Beckham packing. Like a supernova, Odell Beckham Jr. flashed and is now gone.