Let’s try to make sense of, and gain some perspective on, all of the craziness that has surrounded Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants during the NFL League Meetings.
“You always listen.”
It is critical to remember those three words from co-owner John Mara, words he uttered on Sunday.
That’s because those three words are at the center of everything — every rumor and every word — that has been said about Beckham in the last couple of days.
Do I believe that the Giants are actively trying to trade Beckham, that they are calling teams around the league and saying “you can have him for X,Y and Z?” Absolutely not.
Do I believe the Giants are signaling other NFL teams, and Beckham, that the superstar wide receiver isn’t untouchable? Absolutely.
Do I believe the Giants have gotten offers — serious ones — for Beckham? Absolutely.
Do I believe they “intend” to trade Beckham and that GM Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur don’t want him on the 2018 Giants? Absolutely not.
Do I believe they “would” trade Beckham? Absolutely. The 23rd overall pick, which is what the Los Angeles Rams are rumored to have offered for Beckham, won’t get it done. A Herschel Walker or Ricky Williams-esque trade? That would probably get it done. And, in my view, would be worth doing.
Adding fuel to the fire
Mara sparked the inferno of trade speculation by saying Sunday that “When you’re 3-13, nobody is untouchable.” That was a far cry from his previous support for Beckham, and his oft-stated desire that Beckham spend his career with the Giants.
GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur only fanned the flames on Monday. Gettleman by saying he’s “not going there” and “he’s on our team” when asked if he wanted Beckham on the 2018 Giants. Shurmur by saying Beckham is “on our team right now” and by reminding that the Giants “were 3-13 a year ago and we’re making changes.”
The Giants are doing what they should do after a miserable year, and after a miserable stretch of five playoff-less seasons in six years. They are keeping everything on the table, not closing any avenues that could help them get back on the right path.
If you believe all of these statements happened by accident, you’re being naive. Giants’ decision-makers knew they would be required to speak with the media during the NFL League Meetings, and they knew many of the questions would revolve around the wide receiver and whether or not he had a long-term future as a Giant.
In my view, they knew this was their chance to deliver a clear message.
What’s the message?
That this is a new day. That there are new sheriff’s in town. That the team and the franchise are bigger than any individual. That there might be a clean slate, but some of what has gone on in the past can’t go on in the future. That the Giants want to win, and while they hope their future includes Beckham they are open to the idea that it doesn’t have to.
After speaking to assembled media on Tuesday, Gettleman appeared on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller. One of the things he said was telling about what he and Shurmur are trying to do.
“One of the things I have to focus on is eliminating distractions, internal and external. That’s an important part of a GM’s job,” Gettleman said.
”One of the things Ernie [Accorsi] banged into my head was distractions, eliminate distractions. He’s 100 percent right. It’s my responsibility to create the culture that allows coaches to coach and players to play.”
Gettleman joked that all he saw in the viral Beckham video was the pizza box. Funny, but videos that show a player holding a blunt, on a bed with a woman who is doing something with white powder, players facing lawsuits because they keep company with the wrong people, and anything else that creates unwanted headlines aren’t funny. Whether you believe they are egregious or not, they aren’t football-related and yet they end up being talked about. That makes them distractions.
“You don’t quit on talent.”
Gettleman has repeated that phrase a number of times. He said it several times on Monday. You can bet that he means it. He knows, everyone connected with the Giants knows, that Beckham is an extraordinary talent.
The Giants don’t want to quit on him. Mara made that abundantly clear on Tuesday. These are some of the things he said, per SNY:
“He’s not on the block,” Mara said on Tuesday evening, outside the Ritz-Carlton hotel at the NFL’s annual owners’ meetings. “Is that going to stop clubs from possibly calling us? No. But he’s not on the block. We’re not shopping him around.”
“We’re not looking to get rid of him, OK?” Mara said. “I’d like him to be a Giant. But if you’re asking me for a 100 percent guarantee, nobody has that-except maybe Nate Solder because we couldn’t afford the appreciation (on his newly-signed four-year, $62 million contract).”
“There’s no harm in having people call. ... It’s [trading Beckham] certainly a conversation we would have to have if somebody overwhelmed us. Yes.”
Beckham’s contract hovers over all of this.
He wants to be paid commensurate to his talent. No one can, or should, blame him for that. The Giants see the talent, but they also understand that shelling out the kind of historic contract Beckham is likely seeking has to be about more than talent.
They understand that the franchise is bigger than the player. Their frustration is that they don’t want to quit on Beckham, they want to have him for a long time, but they need him to see that the stuff off the field matters, too. Does he represent the franchise in a favorable light? Does he understand that the other stuff is a distraction, and that it can have an impact on the product and eventually on his career? Is he really all about winning and being a historically great wide receiver, or is being a celebrity and making sure the headlines are about him more important?
Nothing has really changed.
Despite all the words that have been said, pages that have been viewed, and Internet bandwidth that has been clogged by Beckham chatter the past few days, we are really right back where we were before all of this started.
Beckham is scheduled to play 2018 on his $8.459 million fifth-year option. Both he and the Giants have a decision to make about whether or not their long-term future is together or apart. The Giants want to end the losing cycle they have been in. They want Beckham to be a part of that, but that will come at a price for both sides.
We still aren’t any closer to knowing how all of this will turn out.