Odell Beckham Jr.’s absence from the first two days of Giants OTAs didn’t look good. The fact he was with Johnny Manziel of all people, rather than Eli Manning, looks even worse.
Why would Beckham, tasked by GM Jerry Reese with making better decisions as a face of the Giants’ franchise, align himself with Manziel, the poster boy for an NFL player who doesn’t have his priorities in order?
A quick history on Manziel: He was indicted for allegedly attacking and threatening his ex-girlfriend in January 2016. Charges were dropped only in exchange for a laundry list of conditions, including an anger management course, a domestic violence impact panel and participation in drug and alcohol rehab.
Manziel’s father called his son “a druggie” to ESPN in June 2016, adding he hopes “he doesn’t die before he comes to his senses” and “I hope he goes to jail … that would be the best place for him.” Shortly after, the NFL suspended Manziel four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Manziel reportedly has been involved in multiple hit-and-runs. And to top it all off, he was reportedly at the same Miami nightclub as Beckham and the Giants’ receivers in January prior to their infamous boat trip the next morning, six days prior to a 38-13 blowout wild card loss in Green Bay.
The Giants have asked Beckham to reconsider exactly this type of decision, and yet on Instagram there he was pictured with Manziel anyway, working out with Johnny Football per TMZ, while Manning and most other Giants worked out on day two of voluntary OTAs in East Rutherford.
Whether it is through indifference or conscious choice, Beckham’s message sent is not an encouraging one.
Beckham has missed two opportunities this offseason already to work out with Manning: first Manning’s passing camp at Duke and now the opening of OTAs. In both cases, attendance was voluntary, but in both cases, most of Beckham’s fellow receivers or skill players showed up while he did not.
Beckham reportedly had oral surgery the week of Manning’s Duke camp, but it remains an open question why he hadn’t scheduled it prior. In weeks leading up to it, he was seen at Drake shows and attended the Final Four.
It is important to wish Manziel the best in turning around his life and his career. And if Beckham is trying to play a part in helping a friend, that’s fine. But it shouldn’t coincide with or supersede an opportunity to be with his teammates.
It may be only May, but Beckham’s decisions, actions and perception matter, especially in the context of Reese’s postseason ultimatum(s) that Beckham mature and make better decisions. In case you forgot, here are samplings of Reese’s January critiques of Beckham, who is reportedly showing up in Jersey on Thursday:
l “I see a guy who needs to think about some of the things that he does.”
l “He is a smart guy, but sometimes he doesn’t do smart things.”
And then, of course, there is this one:
l “He has been here for three years now and is a little bit of a lightning rod because of what he does on the football field, but the things he does off the football field, he has to be responsible for those things and we will talk through it. I know he is a smart guy, and I believe he understands that he has a responsibility being one of the faces of this franchise, and I think he will accept that responsibility.”
That final quote resonates especially today because there are plenty of fans who excuse Beckham’s choices by saying that setting a good example is not his responsibility, that he’s not that type of player, that his role is to produce and show up on Sundays.
But listen to Reese: Beckham is one of the faces of the Giants franchise whether he wanted to be or not. His all-world talent and vibrant personality have thrust him there. And because of that, Reese and the Giants are asking not that he remains the same but that he grows.
Think of it this way: in a week when he has signed a record endorsement deal with Nike, Beckham’s star is growing ever brighter and bigger. But he should be actively cultivating habits and optics that demonstrate his commitment as a teammate and not as an individual, as a Giant and not just himself.
Beckham works his butt off and is an incredible talent, but after Beckham’s season ended with bad off-field decisions and a bad on-field performance, his GM called for growth, maturation and better decision-making.
And while Beckham is undoubtedly working hard, he doesn’t seem to be actively altering his habits to improve his example as a face of the franchise. He doesn’t seem to understand that Manziel, who didn’t even play in the NFL last season after being a 22nd overall pick for the Browns in 2014, is the last person he should be standing next to, across the country from the men he calls teammates in the fall.