Odell Beckham Jr. has a problem, and a big part of the problem is that he doesn’t think there’s a problem.
After yet another game in which Beckham became a focal point because of his temper, the Giants’ third-year receiver suggested that now it’s not just opposing players who are out to get him, but the officials, as well.
A few minutes after the Giants lost to the Vikings, 24-10, on Monday night in Minnesota, Beckham told reporters he has to “understand that 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.”
Whether it’s cornerback Josh Norman of Washington or Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes, who did a terrific job in holding Beckham to a career-low 23 yards on just three catches, or now the officials, it always seems the problem is someone else. At least in Beckham’s eyes.
“As tough as it is to understand that for a 23-year-old who has been blessed with a lot — God has gifted me with an amazing amount of ability, an amazing amount of everything — it seems like it’s all working against you,” he said.
Beckham is indeed a gifted wide receiver with skills rarely seen. He can make acrobatic one-handed catches like almost no other, can sprint faster than most humans and can do things on a football field capable of only a handful of players.
But as it turns out, there is a very real weakness in his game, having nothing to with any physical shortcomings. It turns out his Achilles’ heel is inside his head. Even if he doesn’t believe it or is willing to admit as much.
Norman first showed last December in the run-up to the Giants-Panthers game that you can climb inside Beckham’s head with the right amount of trash talking, and the receiver’s fits of pique the last two games are further evidence that he can easily succumb to the distractions created by those around him and inflamed by Beckham himself.
Consider: In three of his last five games, Beckham has lost his cool. He incurred three personal foul penalties against Norman last Dec. 15, the last of which was a head-first launching at the cornerback that resulted in a one-game suspension. In last week’s loss to Washington, he became so enraged after an Eli Manning interception in the fourth quarter that he slammed his helmet into the kicking net and was struck by the net as it caromed back toward him. And he was hit with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty during an altercation with Rhodes, although it could have been much worse.
Beckham bumped into an official as he was jawing with Rhodes, and he very easily could have been ejected — and perhaps even suspended — for the incident.
But the public fallout is unmistakable. Beckham once was celebrated for making arguably the greatest catch in NFL history — a mind-boggling one-handed catch against the Cowboys in a Sunday night game two years ago. And though his talent and stats remain stratospheric, his recent histrionics are prompting unfavorable comparisons to receivers known for a me-first attitude, including Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and DeSean Jackson.
It’s not a good look.
“We all know Beckham is a tremendous player, a dynamic player,” Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre told SiriusXM radio host Bruce Murray on Monday. “But he’s shooting himself in the foot, which in turn hurts Eli [Manning], which in turn hurts the team. There are some things Odell has to sort out to get back to where he’s just playing and leave the other stuff alone . . . Being emotional, high intensity, that’s OK. But it can’t disrupt what you’re trying to do individually or from a team perspective.”
It is also noteworthy that Manning suggested after the game that Beckham brings a lot of this on himself. And teammate Victor Cruz, a Beckham confidant and frequent defender of his personality, deflected all questions about Beckham’s latest issues.
Cruz did have some interesting things to say Tuesday, however. In his weekly appearance on WFAN, Cruz said Beckham needs to get a hold of his emotions to better deal with the inevitable taunts that come his way.
“I just think he has to learn how to control it and use it for good,” Cruz said. “I think he has to go into games understanding that opponents are going to try to get under his skin. They’re going to try to do things to get him off of his game. And the minute that he succumbs to those things that they do is when he starts to look bad and do the things that may look negative on the film and may look negative when the refs see it and give him those penalties and things like that. Get your payback by making plays.”
Manning said on his WFAN spot that Beckham has to “stay focused, stay committed, and keep working. As my dad [Archie Manning] always says, ‘Keep chopping wood. Keep working and it will get better.’ There is a fine line. He’s competitive and emotional and fiery. That’s fine. You have to make sure you’re using that the right way to motivate yourself and encourage your teammates, and get the best out of you and not get the worst.”
I found it interesting last week in talking with Beckham about whether he has sought the help of a sports psychologist that he said he simply didn’t feel the need. That’s when the line about being in “a great place” came up, a suggestion that he simply doesn’t need the help.
Two sports psychologists to whom I spoke suggested Beckham does need to address these issues, and the fact that there was another incident Monday night only underscores that notion.
“If your triggers or your buttons are easy for others to push, you’re a puppet,” said Dr. Mitch Abrams, a New Jersey-based sports psychologist and author of “Anger Management in Sport.” “I think he needs to get to a place where people are not able to provoke him. As long as that’s the case, he’s going to underachieve.”
That certainly seems like a logical analysis of Beckham’s situation, especially after an underachieving game like Monday night. But until Beckham himself is willing to admit there’s a problem, there won’t be a solution.
The hope here is he gets it together, because the NFL is a much better place and the Giants a much more compelling team with Beckham playing at the top of his game. Unfortunately for Beckham, the story line has changed, and only he can turn it back.