I like to imagine NFL wide receivers have a friendly group chat where they talk about their lives, their performances of each week, and make fun of each other. I like to think that each week, one of them — maybe Tyreek Hill or DeAndre Hopkins — drops in the link to one of their long touchdown catches, and afterwards, Odell Beckham Jr. responds with a short and snarky text that reads, “Must be nice.”
Beckham recently did an interview with ESPN in which he expressed his frustration with the Giants’ offense. He believes the offense is hindering him, that he is incapable of showing his true ability in the situation he is in:
“I don’t feel like I’m being given the opportunity to be the very best that I can, to bring that every single day — and that’s really all I want to do, to bring that every single day. Since I’ve been here I’ve put up numbers, records have been broken, and all those good things, not to say mean nothing to me, but I know they could have been double, or triple whatever they are now. That’s the part that bothers me.”
Beckham called out Eli Manning’s inability to throw long passes:
“Can he still throw it, yeah, but it’s been pretty safe and it’s been, you know, cool catching shallow and trying to take it to the house. But I’m, you know, I want to go over the top of somebody.”
And said he is envious of other receivers in the league:
“I feel like I’m being out-schemed, and I also don’t have a chance to like, do something. Oh, I gotta take a slant and go 60? Not to say it’s not fun, but I want those easy touchdowns too. I watch everybody across the league, all the top receivers get the ball the way they should, and if they don’t they say something about it.”
The interview was ill-advised. It’s never good optics for a player to go on national television and denigrate a teammate and his own coaching staff, but the fact Beckham felt it was necessary shows how frustrated he has been with Manning and the Giants. Beckham is one of the best receivers in the league. He has been one of the best since he was drafted in 2014. But apparently, even with his achievements, he still believes he’s being held back.
Beckham isn’t wrong. He is envious of the receivers in the league who make big plays because he has the ability to make those plays too. Problem is, a receiver’s production depends on how good his quarterback is. Manning’s inability to pass deep inevitably limits what Beckham can do.
At 10.3 yards per pass completion, Manning ranks 32nd out of 35 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 80 passes this season, above only Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, and Sam Bradford. In 2017, he was 30th out of 32 starting NFL quarterbacks. And in 2016, he was 24th. Sunday’s game against the Panthers was the first time this season that Manning threw for more than 300 yards. It was also the first time since 2015 the Giants scored more than 30 points in a game.
And if Beckham is limited, so is the Giants’ offense — Beckham is responsible for over a third of the team’s receiving yards. When it comes to pass plays longer than 25 yards, the Giants are the 24th best team with just eight on the season, three of which were hauled in by Beckham.
The problem with the Giants’ offense isn’t entirely Manning’s fault, but a good offense needs a good quarterback, especially when there is a weapon like Beckham at his disposal. Manning has been struggling for the Giants for several seasons. It’s not a new problem, and it can only get worse as Manning gets older.
Fittingly, the best justification for Beckham’s frustration came from a trick play in the second quarter. Manning lateraled the ball to Beckham on the left side, Beckham took a few steps back, and sent a deep pass from the Giants’ 35-yard line to a wide-open Saquon Barkley across the field. Barkley caught the ball on the Panthers’ 35 and then ran it for a touchdown.
Trick plays aren’t easily replicable, and yet the pass meant that among the 54 players who have attempted a pass this season, Beckham is ranked 22nd in terms of longest completions. Manning is 38th, at 40 yards. Beckham showed once again, in his own way, that if you want things done right, you have to take charge yourself.