The Giants have a problem. OK, they have a few problems, but this is not a reference to their -8 turnover differential, though it is kind of related to that. The problem I’m specifically referring to is that their best player and one of the NFL’s most marketable stars, Odell Beckham Jr., can’t help himself from losing his temper, taking it out on opposing players and defenseless kicking nets. Worse, it’s costing his team on the field.
Receivers get some license for dramatics. One of my most enduring memories as a fan is T.O. pulling a marker out of his sock to sign a touchdown ball and Randy Moss mooning the Packer faithful at Lambeau Field.
The NFL works really hard to strip the individual personalities out of the game, except for its biggest, most recognizable stars who get put on the path to being pitchmen. So it’s refreshing to me, as a fan, to see Dez Bryant animated on the sidelines because he wants the ball or Steve Smith using his farewell season to show us all some "jacka."
Referees don’t always like those antics and the penalty flags fly. Usually, the team can withstand the hit the hit they take in yardage, and what they gain in fan appreciation typically outweighs the infraction.
It’s gotten way beyond amusing antics for the Giants and Beckham.
Here’s a partial list of Beckham’s troubles this season.
Week 2: He was fined $36,000 for this crackback block on Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr gets fined for a "dirty hit" on Saints Safety Kenny Vaccaro. pic.twitter.com/Rrdoy5v9lZ— Rob Lopez (@R0BaTO) September 25, 2016
Week 3: Beckham stayed out of the fray with Josh Norman, but he ended up fighting with a kicking net on the sideline. This was a harmless incident by itself, but when you add it to the list of outbursts it’s an embarrassing reminder of Beckham’s antics in total.
Week 4: Beckham got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for jawing at Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes.
He’s lucky he didn’t get called for making contact with the ref or taking a shot at Rhodes on the very next play.
Beckham stayed off the officials’ radar after that play, but the Vikings may have gotten into his head anyway. He dropped a pass on the Giants’ first possession of the second half. The drive ended with an Eli Manning interception on a throw to Beckham, who looked like he pulled up on the route.
bgn_radio: Eli Interception Rank: 7— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) October 4, 2016
Eli Interception Face: 5 ESPN Monday Night Football: Gi… https://t.co/mGPkxJUcDc pic.twitter.com/zh9i3pYuNt
And Rhodes knew exactly what he was doing, and how easy it is for a defender to rattle the hot-tempered Beckham.
"It was just football. A little trash-talking here and there. It’s going to happen," Rhodes told USA Today, with a smile on his face, after the game.
Beckham brushed it off after the game.
"Getting in your head, any of that other stuff, that's all tough to create a distraction, which doesn't really work."
Hmm, you sure about that?
Odell Beckham vs. Xavier Rhodes tonight, 3 of 7 passes caught for just 23 yards. Rhodes with an interception and PD vs. Beckham— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 4, 2016
His teammates noticed. Manning called him out for not being more aware that his behavior has referees watching.
"They're looking for him and he has got to play smart. We can't afford to do anything. They're going to call him and he brought that on himself," Manning said.
During New York’s Week 3 loss to Washington -- Beckham’s best game of the season with seven catches and 121 yards — his coaches and teammates were trying to calm him down on the sidelines. After the game, head coach Ben McAdoo said publicly that his star receiver needed to do a better job controlling his emotions.
Someone else took notice Monday night, Giants general manager Jerry Reese, the guy who makes the roster decisions and signs the contracts.
Can't overstate how long GM Jerry Reese sat and talked to Odell Beckham Jr. In postgame locker room long after most of team had gone #Giants— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) October 4, 2016
This isn’t a new problem for Beckham and the Giants. Since 2014, he’s been fined more than $130,000 for various unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, fighting, punching, etc. His outburst at Norman last season got him a one-game suspension that cost him a December game against the Vikings. The Giants lost that game and fell out of a very winnable NFC East race because of it.
Beckham doesn’t see himself as part of the problem. In his mind, he’s being persecuted by opponents and the league.
"People hear so much about me, they're like, 'Oh, I can make my name off of him,’" Beckham told the media last October after a game that saw him throwing punches at players from the Bills.
That was two months before the infamous game against the Panthers and Norman. In that same session with the press Beckham added, ""I feel like I do a pretty good job. Controlling my emotions is not really my concern."
He pretty much said the same thing after Monday’s game, but this time he made it clear that he believes the officials are out to get him.
"It's just my fault. It's all I look at it as, it's my fault. Whatever you want to call it, I just have to understand, if I sneeze the wrong way, it'll be a flag, it'll be a fine. If I tie my shoe the wrong way, it might be a fine or a flag."
Hopefully whatever Reese said to Beckham will sink in. If he keeps this up, he’s not only putting the Giants’ season at risk, he’s threatening to send his career down the same path as Percy Harvin or Mike Wallace, hot-tempered receivers whose antics made them too much of a risk for teams or, in Wallace’s case, settling for a contract way below the kind of deals he once commanded.
Roger Goodell and the old white guys he works for aren’t capable of seeing the distinction between a hot head who causes legitimate problems for his team and a player who brings a little personality to the crowd of otherwise anonymous jerseys and helmets. Beckham’s run-in last season with Norman resulted in the league’s new "two strikes" policy for unsportsmanlike conduct and a league-wide crackdown on taunting that gets players penalized for shooting imaginary bow and arrows into the air and changes the outcome of games.
Beckham’s temper isn’t just a threat to his career and the Giants’ season, it’s bad for those of us who like some fun with our football.