The New York Giants have largely walked on eggshells when discussing Odell Beckham Jr. and his myriad of behavorial or maturity issues during the first three years of his career. Members of the organization have generally backed Beckham, talked about what a good young man he is and shown patience by putting forward the idea that maturing and learning to handle the spotlight that follows Beckham is a process.
Well, maybe that patience has begun to wear just a bit thin. General Manager Jerry Reese didn’t mince words about Beckham during his season-ending press conference on Monday, saying “he’s a smart guy, but sometimes he doesn’t do smart things.”
Here is the full quote.
"I see a guy who needs to think about some of the things that he does. Everybody knows he's a gifted player, but there's some things that he's done that he needs to look at himself in the mirror and be honest with himself about some of the things that he's done. I think he'll do that. We'll help him with that, but he has to help himself and we believe he'll do that. He's a smart guy, but sometimes he doesn't do smart things."
Reese also made it seem as though he had met with Beckham to discuss his behavior, saying “he heard the truth today.”
"When Odell comes to my office, I tell him the truth," Reese said. "He heard the truth today and I think he's going to do the things that he needs to do to be accountable for some of his actions."
Reese said the Giants will conduct their own investigation of that claim and if they find Beckham did create the hole “we’ll definitely one-thousand percent hold him accountable for that.”
Coach Ben McAdoo was also critical of the apparent wall-punching incident.
“That's not the way we want to be acting after ball games,” he said.
During his time with the Giants Beckham has had a habit of bringing unwanted attention to himself. The trip to Miami after the regular-season finale and before the playoff game did that. So did apparently punching a hole in a Lambeau Field wall after the Giants’ 38-13 loss on Sunday.
"We all had to grow up at different times in our lives. I think it's time for him to do that," Reese said. "He's been here for three years now. He's a little bit of a lightning rod because of what he does on the football field, but the things he does off the football field, he's got to be responsible for those things. We'll talk through it. I know he's a smart guy. I believe he understands that he has a responsibility being one of the faces of this franchise. I think he'll accept that responsibility."
One of the things Beckham, 24, has to accept is that optics matter. Especially when you are a world-renowned superstar playing in front of the spotlight of the New York media.
If you don’t want to answer questions about a trip to Miami to party before a playoff game, don’t take the trip. If you don’t want to look like a 2-year-old having a tantrum when things don’t go your way, don’t punch walls to show how much you care. Don’t attack the kicking net. Or propose to it. Or have your picture making out with Khloe Kardashian in a nightclub plastered all over social media.
When those things happen again and again and again, you are no longer known for your talent. You become known as a sideshow, and the world has lots and lots of fun at your expense, and lots of pointed, not-so-nice things to say, when things go wrong.
The Miami trip probably had nothing to do with Beckham’s difficult game on Sunday. The problem is it took the focus off what it should have been on — the accomplishment of the Giants making the playoffs for the first time in five years — and opened Beckham to the kind of silly scrutiny he has undergone since the Giants lost.
Optics matter. As Reese said, it’s time for Beckham to grow up. I have written this before — too many times, in fact — but it’s time for him to stop being a self-centered carnival act and let his talent be the story.
If he can do that, he might just help the Giants to a Super Bowl title. If he can’t, he might just become Terrell Owens.