By Jason Keidel
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Last week, Carl Banks was on with Joe and Evan, musing over Odell Beckham Jr. Banks, as sharp and insightful as anyone in this industry, didn’t think Beckham’s histrionics were hurting the Giants.
Most former NFL players echoed Banks’ sentiment. Until Monday night.
Now the tables are clearly turning on the electric, eccentric wideout, whose increasing volatility has stapled a target across his jersey, and is leaving teammates to clean up the carnage.
It started simply enough. Beckham lived in his bubble, a football nimbus we needn’t understand. As long as he kept racking up numbers and posterizing NFL secondaries, we wouldn’t violate his space, dismissing his moods as an adjunct of his athletic brilliance.
But Beckham is not only hemorrhaging emotions on the field, he’s leaving countless catches, catching personal fouls, and is increasingly morphing into a pariah.
He’s also spinning a web of self-pity around himself. If his actions on the field Monday night weren’t enough, his misguided missives at his locker didn’t do himself any favors.
Now Beckham has developed a persecution complex. Instead of a resounding mea culpa, owning his actions and vowing to keep his inner fire from burning the ball club, Beckham sees boogeymen in the locker room, on the field, and throwing flags.
We all saw him descend into his paranoid, “It’s all my fault monologue.” If he ties his shoes wrong, he gets a flag. If he sneezes wrong, he gets a flag. Indeed, Odell, it’s a conspiracy, the same cabal that made you a millionaire, and perhaps the most popular player in the NFL, at age 23, with your visage burned into our televisions 24 hours a day, from beef jerky to shampoo commercials on eternal loop.
And, at least Monday night, we didn’t have the offsetting impact of his physical dominance. Three catches and 22 yards hardly deflects the narrative back onto the gridiron.
Which means one thing.
Josh Norman is still in Beckham’s head, at least in spirit.
If you don’t think there’s any residual affects, the stats don’t lie.
Beckham was rewriting the archives for wide receivers in their first two seasons. But since his infamous tete-a-tete with Norman — a total of six contests, including the Panthers game — Beckham has averaged just 5.5 receptions, 72.16 yards per game, and has scored just one touchdown.
He has a mere 22 catches in four games this season, for 303 yards, and touchdowns. And when you combine production with petulance, Monday night was the worst showing of his career.
Beckham either doesn’t know when the play ends or doesn’t care. Just seconds after he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, he launched himself into a Vikings defender on the sideline.
While the defense is on the field, more and more players and coaches are pulling Beckham aside for ad hoc counseling sessions. And on Monday night the camera showed Beckham being lectured or mentored while jogging off the field at halftime.
All football fans have a great aesthetic appreciation for Beckham’s athletic splendor. Just last year the public and pundits were gawking up at his career arc, fitting him for a gold jacket, if not a place up the rungs as the greatest receiver of all-time.
It’s a thrill, if not an honor, to watch him at his best. But, frankly, this is why so many of the greatest, loquacious wideouts don’t retire with a Super Bowl ring. Beckham is at a clear crossroads right now. Will he pivot back into superstardom and continue to take an eraser to the record books? Or will he descend into this self-obsessed madness that clearly has no regard for etiquette, or touchdowns?
Curious to know what my friend Carl Banks thinks today.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel