Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
Odell Beckham Jr. knew this was coming. His teammates told him before the season. His coaches did, too. And he surely realized himself that this could happen. And now it really is happening.
After putting together one of the most spectacular rookie seasons in NFL history, complete with an iconic catch that immediately was cast as one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- of all time, Beckham is facing a major reality check in Year 2.
And the petty resentment of folks such as Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who called out Beckham on ESPN on Friday by calling him a "one-year wonder."StoryCentral Islip grad added to 49ers rosterStoryGiants have experience vs. mobile QBsStoryJennings leads the Giants in big plays
Opponents are paying much stricter attention to the gifted wide receiver, and he has become a much bigger target for defensive backs and defensive coordinators.
To which we say: Better get used to it, kid. It's not going away.
Beckham's athleticism and balletic moves are off-the-charts compelling to watch, and his flashy catches are some of the most incredible things to behold. But with an offseason's worth of time to watch tape and figure out how to defend him, opposing coaches are devoting far more time, energy and manpower to stopping him. And there has been a tangible effect on what Beckham has been able to do -- and not do.
His numbers are down dramatically from a year ago. He averaged an astounding 108.8 yards and one touchdown per game last year as he finished with a Giants-rookie-record 1,305 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. This year, he is averaging 76.8 yards receiving and has only two touchdowns.
Last week against the Bills, his emotions got the better of him and he was involved in a handful of post-play shoving matches. After one play, he took a swing at Bills safety Duke Williams and was fined $8,681. Beckham is appealing the fine, but even if the penalty is reduced, the evidence is clear: Frustration has set in, and Beckham needs to adjust to his new reality.
That reality is this: As much as Giants fans love seeing him make spectacular catches and elevate his game to an art form, the people on the other sideline are equally motivated to see his powers negated.
Beckham doesn't seem overly concerned with his situation, but that's to be expected. On the field or in the locker room, he carries himself with a self-assurance that matches his talents.
"I'm not worried about it," he said. "Controlling my emotions is not my concern."
But coach Tom Coughlin showed enough concern about Beckham's behavior against the Bills that he had a heart-to-heart with his young receiver.
Coughlin was a receivers coach back in the day, so he knows about watching a player at that position develop.
He didn't have any star receivers when he was the Giants' receivers coach from 1988-90. Lionel Manuel was about the best he had, and Manuel was released late in the 1990 season because of a poor attitude.
But the coach knows that Beckham's attitude is just as important as his technique.
"He's an emotional guy," Coughlin said. "He's very competitive, very energetic. He flies around out there."
But life is different now for Beckham. He no longer is a novelty the way he was last year, when he burst on to the scene after recovering from a hamstring injury. Beckham's ability now is acknowledged by his coaches and teammates and, even more important, by the people trying to stop him.
Teams no longer will give him the benefit of the doubt with single coverage on a regular basis. A safety almost always will be within range for the double-team, and Beckham now draws the best cornerback.
It's what happens to every star player in this league; you may dominate early on, but that only means that you will draw more attention in the years ahead. Beckham now is faced with that fact of life, and he'll have to deal with it on a weekly basis for as long as his wondrous talents continue at such a stratospheric level.
Victor Cruz knows. It happened to him after his brilliant 2011 season in which he had 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches. Cruz never again was considered an afterthought in opposing teams' coverage, and he hasn't had that kind of year since.
"I told [Beckham] it's part of the game, it's part of teams trying to get in your mind and your head," Cruz said of the increased attention Beckham has received this year. "You have to be bigger than that. You have to be mentally stronger than that and know that these things are coming and learn how to combat that."
Beckham has no other choice. Like all great players, he has to overcome the inevitable response from those he goes against. He must rise above it or else be taken down with it.
The truly great ones find a way to overcome the increased coverage and scrutiny. And let's face it, the increased jealousy of players who see the media attention, the magazine covers and the endorsements makes those players want to beat Beckham even more.
And disparage his accomplishments. Thus Cromartie's reference to Beckham as "a one-year wonder" when he didn't include Beckham in his list of top three NFL wide receivers.
"I need to see it on an every-game basis," Cromartie said, "not him getting penalties or sucker-punching somebody."
It's a narrative that surely will continue leading up to the Jets-Giants regular-season game on Dec. 6.
So a word of advice to the second-year receiver as he confronts his new reality: Deal with it, because it's not going away.