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Tom Coughlin's heart-to-heart with Odell Beckham Jr. helped

Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York

Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants talks with Odell Beckham Jr. on the field during warm-ups before their game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 14, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jeff Zelevansky

This was more than a month before Odell Beckham Jr. made his first catch in an NFL uniform, a time when the crowds around his locker weren't asking him to talk about magnificent plays during the game but when he actually would play in a game.

But it proved to be a turning point in the rookie receiver's career nonetheless. As he told me after yet another electrifying performance yesterday -- a 12-catch, 143-yard, three-touchdown effort in a 24-13 win over Washington -- he still carries the lessons of what Tom Coughlin told him, and us, on that early September afternoon.

"Those are words that encouraged me then and that still haven't left me to this day,'' Beckham said.

With the Giants nearing the end of training camp and Beckham still unable to practice because of recurring hamstring problems dating to early in the offseason, Coughlin had a rare moment of pique during his daily news briefing with reporters. He told a horde of inquisitors to back off with the questions about Beckham; this despite the fact that Coughlin previously had aired his own disappointment about Beckham's continued absence.

"Let's just let this kid get better," he said. "Everybody settle down and let the kid get better.''

Why the change of tone? "Because it is every day it is the same question over and over,'' he said then. "He is not ready to play. He may be a couple, three weeks away, so we are not going to talk about him. We have a game to play. Can we talk about the guys playing in the game instead of people that are on the injury report? Thank you for bearing with me on that one.''

It was a stark change for Coughlin, based on his previous frustration with the injury. But going from tough love to father figure worked like a charm.

Coughlin followed up his media lecture with a heart-to-heart with his young receiver. Even though it would be another five weeks before Beckham's dazzling debut against the Falcons, this would be the first significant turning point of the first-round draft pick's young career.

"That meant a lot,'' Beckham said. "It means a lot to have your coach behind you and just knowing we're both in a frustrating situation. Nobody wants to be hurt. Nobody wants to not be playing. You're coming in and trying to prove yourself, earn your stripes, and it's hard to feel like your back is against the wall and everyone's attacking you. For him to come out and to be like 'just let him live' meant a lot.

"Whatever words were said, and then he comes to talk to me and said, 'I'm behind you, and I know this is frustrating, so just hang in there,' '' Beckham said. "Absolutely that helped. It allowed me to step back, just relax, but make sure you get [the hamstring] right. You keep hurting it, you can't help anybody.''

Beckham eventually got on the field, and now we see what we have here: the most athletic, dynamic playmaking receiver the Giants have had in years. If he's this good this early, he might turn out to be their best offensive playmaker ever.

Big words, yes, especially after only 10 games. But with all these plays he's been making, with all these remarkable catches and effortless execution at the highest level of his sport, how can you not project his ceiling in stratospheric terms? He's brilliant, plain and simple.

"I think you don't want to get his head too big too early right now, but he's got a lot of skill,'' said Eli Manning, who finished with 250 passing yards, three touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 118.5 rating, his seventh rating of at least 100.0 this season (one short of his career high in 2009). "You just hope to keep working, keep grinding and keep getting the little things correct. There's definitely some room for improvement still, just on decisions and understanding the offense. Hopefully we can continue to do that.''

No reason they can't. Not the way Beckham has so quickly adapted to the NFL game. In 10 games, he has 972 receiving yards, breaking Jeremy Shockey's franchise record for a rookie, and nine touchdown catches. And he's got a very good chance to become the team's first NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Beckham again was spectacular on Sunday, finding a crease between two defenders for a 10-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, showing his explosive speed on a slant route he turned into a 35-yard score in the third quarter and finishing off his touchdown hat trick with a 6-yard catch in the fourth. His 30-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was negated by a teammate's holding penalty.

"Like I said earlier in the year, we have the potential to be one of the best, if not the best, offenses,'' Beckham said. "There is no reason for you not to think that. Anybody on the team should think that we should be the best. There is a lot to look forward to.''

There sure is. Especially from one of the most electrifying players we've ever seen in a Giants uniform.


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