Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Young Dirty Beckham

Exhibit A
Yesterday in New Jersey, Odell Beckham pretty much lost his mind during a football game. For play after play, he pretty much stopped playing football, and engaged in an escalating attempt to injure Carolina CB Josh Norman, who might just be the best DB in football this year. Norman had celebrated when Beckham dropped what looked like a long touchdown early in the game, been physical with him without getting a flag, and was otherwise doing a great job of getting the WR off of his game. The Giants were down big, in a contest that was more or less ending their season, and rather than remaining a professional, Beckham became more like a psychopath.

The footage that everyone saw was Beckham launching himself, head first, at the side of Norman's head, after a 15-yard head start, at the end of a play, after the DB had matadored past an earlier attempt at mayhem. The DB was lucky to escape serious injury, and the NFL more or less admitted that the refs blew the call by not ejecting Beckham. Today's make-good of a one game suspension, somehow getting appealed by Beckham under the principle that no appeal ever resulted in the punishment getting worse, confirms that the crew shouldn't be on another NFL game of note this year, at least.

But here's the thing about that play: it was far from an isolated incident. Beckham swung at Norman multiple times, got his hand under the DB's face mask repeatedly, and it was more or less the focus of every play, as a national audience and Fox's "A" team analysts commented on the continuing meltdown. Giants HC Tom Coughlin, on his way out the door at the end of a nightmare season, kept him on the field despite terrible behavior, because Beckham is the Giants' best player, and their only chance to come back from a big deficit against a quality defense. Despite 45 yards in unsportsmanlike calls, the WR stayed in the game, and thanks to multiple Panther giveaways and a score of his own, Blue got all the way back to tied before the defense let them down again for the loss.

What's notable here is that Beckham behaved in a way that will, frankly, endear him forever to a sizable percentage of the Giant fan base. He fought, dammit. He cared. Norman, it can be argued by people with blue-colored glasses or an interest in Beckham helping their fantasy team, instigated the whole afternoon by getting in the first lick, an innocent by comparison post-whistle wrestling move on the play after the drop. No one knows, of course, if Norman said anything to Beckham post-drop that set the powederkeg off, or if the Panther sideline engaged in chippiness, or if someone carrying a bat around in pre-game warmups made Beckham feel like he had to take the law into his own hands and head. It's football; there are no angels in the NFL.

Fans want their teams to hate the opposition, to rage against the dying of the light, to treat every game as if it were their last, and to step over defeated opponents like Allen Iverson did to Tyronn Lue in the 2000 NBA Championships, in the only game the Kobe/Shaq Lakers lost, and what looked exactly like what Beckham did to Norman after scoring the tying touchdown. Had Blue gotten another turnover and won the game, Beckham would have 5X more defenders today, and maybe even ducks the suspension. We'd be talking about how Blue held momentum, and might be the only NFC lEast team that could actually win a playoff game, because he's no worse than the 2nd or 3rd best WR in the game, and QB Eli Manning has two rings from previous hot winters. Besides, no one else would have beaten Carolina this year.

What happened instead was that the Giants lost, so Beckham gets to take full ire, and look like a crazy loser, especially with the hair and the super slo-mo visuals of a 15-yard charge and spear at Norman's skull. Some will defend him, most will dog pile on the narrative that he's a cheap shot artist, and in all likelihood, the Giants will continue to coddle him, because they have no better option than to hold on tight and hope that a young WR just grows out of this. (If I'm Blue management, I check to make sure that he's aware of the gun laws in NYC. No need to have Plax Burress II.)

Norman, however, isn't the only DB in the NFL who can be physical. While most players can barely stay in the frame with Beckham, Norman can... but every team can send waves of guys at him, now that it's been established that he's got a temper and will put his own situation above the team.

If I'm a Blue fan, I want Beckham suspended for the rest of 2015, because the season's lost anyway. I want him in an anger management class. I want him to get coached from some retired star WR (Is Amani Toomer available?) who gets him to realize that all of these guys are just playing the only card that, to date, seems to work against him. I want the new coach to treat him like a member of the team, rather than an opera diva. And I want the fan base to realize that football is not pro wrestling, or comic book war, and that next year matters, maybe even more than this year, especially when your defense gives up nearly 40 points at home, in an elimination game, in a season where the division winner is going to be one-and-trucked in the first round with a .500 record.

Blue's got one of the best young WRs in the game. They need to figure out how to keep him in it. Before the fans and his own ego takes him out for good. (Or, well, some defender who decides that he's not going to let a teammate take the next spear.)


Snd_dsgnr said...

My thoughts on the matter in chronological order.

1. Norman did instigate the conflict with after the play action, and while it wasn't anything we haven't seen hundreds of times before we've also seen much less get flagged.

2. If the refs had flagged Norman for the play, seems like there's a decent chance the whole thing never escalates the way it did.

3. Norman didn't get flagged, and so Beckham proceeded to spend roughly 2/3 of the game not actually playing WR. He let Norman set up camp in his head, and the Giants offense tanked with Beckham essentially voluntarily taking himself out of the game. This left the offense for all practical purposes playing with 10 guys and a crazy person doing his own thing. It indisputably hurt the team, and that's without even getting into the penalties.

3. This was especially frustrating as a Giants fan, because when he was actually, you know, running routes he was getting open against Norman.

4. At any point during this stretch of game Coughlin could have (and IMO should have) benched him until he cooled off and got his head together. Had he done this, the targeting play probably doesn't happen.

5. Beckham is a grown ass man, and is responsible for his own actions no matter the provocation. The helmet to helmet hit should have earned him an ejection, and he definitely deserved the suspension he received.

6. I absolutely believe that if Beckham had kept his head in the game the Giants would have won.

7. Seeing Norman go on a press tour about the incident as if he was an innocent victim in the matter has been pretty infuriating.

8. Listening to Coughlin talk about how there is blame to go around without even a hint of acknowledgment that he could have headed this incident off has also been infuriating.

9. I still love Beckham. He's been the bright spot during two depressing seasons. Kid clearly needs to get control over his temper though.

DMtShooter said...

Well said, and mostly agreed. You remain my favorite Blue fan.

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