When a team gets stuck in a rut, some unproductive chatter begins to stir and find its way out of a locker room that’s supposed to be hallowed ground, a place where teammates should be able to go to one another if they have a problem or constructive feedback and share that feedback without it ever seeing the light of day.
Welcome to 2018, where thanks to a 1-5 start to the season, there has already been some grumbling around the New York Giants about who’s not doing what — grumbling that has come from the team’s star wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., who just two months ago received a record-setting payout for a receiver from the team.
Beckham, who is trying to become more of a leader, is going to have missteps along the way.
While most of his comments made during the now famous ESPN interview — specifically those about the team needing to show a little bit more heart — were spot on, where he went wrong (beside the setting) is in failing to squash the idea that the team has an issue at quarterback.
Now before you go thinking this is a defense of Eli Manning, it isn’t. Manning hasn’t played well enough this year, a year in which his supporting cast was supposed to be a lot better than in years past.
And for those who might argue that Beckham was in a no-win situation to where had he backed Manning he wouldn’t have been true to himself, I’m not buying that either as he could have easily said that there is a problem with everyone on a team contributing to a 1-5 start (an accurate and fair statement).
The problem with Beckham that likely irked Mara and others stems from the fact that Beckham’s comments — just look at all the times he referenced himself and what he wante — appeared as an attempt to separate himself from his struggling teammates.
That notion was further compounded in a video as part of his I Am More: OBJ series when he had this to say regarding the dust-up his words created.
“I’m sorry that I’m not going to apologize for my heart. I don’t feel like you deserve an apology for one, and I don’t feel like it’s necessary for me to apologize for how I feel.”
Yes, Beckham is entitled to an opinion. But what he fails to understand is that his words, which by now he has to know pack a major punch, created yet another distraction for his struggling teammates to have to answer for.
That brings us to the comments made by one-time Giants offensive lineman John “Jumbo” Elliott and team co-owner John Mara that can be best summed up as “Work harder, talk less.”
NY Giants locker room better check themselves before throwing Eli under. I haven't seen any other position dominating and playing lights out. Work harder, talk less.— Jumbo Elliott (@JumboElliott76) October 15, 2018
Mara’s comments, made to reporters at the league meetings Tuesday, were in fact a little more, shall we say, biting.
“I wish he would create the headlines by his play on the field as opposed to what he says and what he does off the field,” he said according to a transcript provided by the NFL Network, “I think he needs to do a little more playing and a little less talking.”
Mara is right. Regardless of how you feel about Manning, the play calling, or anything else that might be involved in holding this Giants team back, Beckham is still a part of a team that is 1-5.
He has hauled in passes at a 69.2 percent rate, currently the second-highest mark of his career and he leads the team in pass targets with 65, two stats that would right off the bat poke huge holes in any narrative suggesting he’s not getting opportunities.
But here’s where Beckham’s opinion loses steam. His current average yards per reception (11.2) and his average yards after the catch (4.0) are both career lows.
The quarterback’s job is to get the ball to the receiver. What the receiver does with it once he has the ball in his hands, well that’s on the receiver, not the quarterback.
And just how many times this year has Beckham, who used to routinely take a short pass and break free to daylight, done just that?
To be clear, Beckham is indeed entitled to an opinion, just as safety Antrel Rolle was in 2011 when he challenged his teammates.
But in response to those who continue to insist that what Beckham did is no worse than what Rolle, the two scenarios aren’t even close.
First, Rolle never made the comments about himself, never once suggesting that the play of his teammates was holding him back.
Second, Rolle never specifically called out any one teammate by name. Even though it was widely assumed that he was referencing defensive end Justin Tuck when he made the comment about guys needing to suck it up and practice so long as their injuries weren’t major,
Rolle never mentioned Tuck by name when asked if he was referencing anyone specific.
Leaders know when to keep the dirty laundry in house where it belongs just as much as they know when to send a salvo at the entire team through external channels.
Until Beckham learns the difference, until he understands that he is contributing to the team’s record by what he does and doesn’t do, he’s never going to take that step forward in being the leader this team needs him to be.
Here we go again, Part 2
A quick word or two about the idea that the Giants should seek a trade for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, currently with the Colts.
Please don’t to it.
Seriously, if the Giants season is over — and let’s be real, it’s on life support right now — why would anyone think it would make a shred of sense to potentially give up draft picks to acquire a quarterback that, at best, would probably be a short-term rental?
If the Giants are going to move on from Eli Manning — a possibility that increases with every loss — wouldn’t it make more sense to keep the draft pick and see what the team has in Kyle Lauletta?
The Giants, remember, have already committed a third-round pick next year thanks to their drafting of cornerback Sam Beal in the supplemental draft.
They also sent one of their three seventh-round picks to Denver for punter Riley Dixon. And there’s no guarantee they’re going to get a compensatory pick in next year’s draft.
So why would general manager Dave Gettleman even think about parting with a draft pick when this team so badly needs to restock talent that was lost through years of bad draft decisions?
That’s not a knock on Brissett, but if it were my call, I’d rather see the Giants do what the Chiefs did last year with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith — get the youngster, in this case Lauletta, in for a game or two to see what he has so you can make an informed decision next offseason regarding whether to move on from Manning and/or get into a position to draft your next franchise quarterback.