In Defense of the Biggest Star in NYC

Odell has been criticized for his recent ESPN interview, but as fans, we should not be too upset.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants has recently come under fire from multiple news outlets and fans for his comments in a televised interview with ESPN reporter Josina Anderson. “How come we can't throw the ball for more than 20 yards? How come we don't attempt or try to throw the ball for more than 20 yards?...I feel like [Eli Manning’s] not going to get out the pocket. He's not; we know Eli's not running it. But is it a matter of time issue? Can he still throw it? Yeah, but it's been pretty safe, and it's been, you catching shallow [routes] and trying to take it to the house. But I'm, you know; I want to go over the top of somebody,” said Odell in the interview.

Odell was clearly criticizing his quarterback’s inability to throw the ball downfield. It’s not surprising that every Giants fan came running to defend their dear Eli Manning, who has won two Super Bowls for the franchise. But there’s one thing I think they’re forgetting: Eli Manning is a terrible quarterback.

This past offseason, the Giants were coming off a 3-13 season, the worst in franchise history. They had a decision to make with the second overall pick in the draft on April 26, 2018: Take Saquon Barkley, Penn State running back who was considered the best player in the draft, or select Eli Manning’s successor out of a very talented group of quarterbacks.

New general manager Dave Gettleman decided to compete for a Super Bowl in 2018 with Manning under the helm rather than build for the future, selecting Barkley to help revive an offense that had been struggling for many years and lacked a true workhorse running back. In the second round, Gettleman selected offensive guard Will Hernandez to upgrade the offensive line, which was terrible in 2017.

In free agency, Gettleman gave Nate Solder, the best left tackle on the market, a four-year contract worth $62 million. He also signed offensive guard Patrick Omameh and center Jon Halapio. These picks and signings looked to improve the offense in the short term.

Gettleman and newly hired head coach Pat Shurmur expressed his trust and confidence in Manning since the draft, defending the decision to draft Barkley instead of a quarterback. They have surrounded their 37-year old veteran quarterback with a bunch of talented playmakers who can make things happen with the ball in their hands.

And yet, Manning failed to deliver. Again.

When anyone merely suggests that Manning is not a good quarterback, many defensive Giants fans point to the two Super Bowls that he won with the team in 2007 and 2011. But a deeper look into Manning’s career suggests that at best, he’s been a mediocre quarterback for his entire career.

His career completion percentage is a meager 60.1 percent. His career passer rating is just 83.7, whereas league averages this year for the two statistics are 63.4 and 94.4, respectively. He has led the league in interceptions three times during the 15 years he has been in the league (2007, 2010, 2013).

Football is a sport in which the wide receiver is viewed as a “dependent” position because his success is largely dictated by the play of his quarterback, who is responsible for putting the ball in his hands. This is why no receiver has ever won the MVP award, while the Super Bowl MVP has been a receiver only four times.

Beckham, however, is being depended on by his quarterback, as highlighted by the latter’s incompetencies without Odell on the field with him since 2014 (Odell’s rookie season). With Odell on the field, Manning has a 63.3 completion percentage, a 91.5 passer rating, and a QBR of 56.1. When Odell is sidelined, Manning’s completion percentage drops to 60.4 while his passer rating plummets to 75.0 and his QBR to 40.4.

In his interview, Odell said, “I don’t think I’m given an opportunity to be the very best I can be. I don’t want to be held back anymore.” Yes, Odell implied that he was being “held back” by Eli. Yes, he was very honest in this interview. So what?

We seem to have a double standard when it comes to our beloved athletes. Fans want candid answers from sport’s biggest superstars, but when they get those desired responses, they go into an uproar. Please pick a side.

Maybe Odell was being a bit too honest to the public. But part of the reason why he is so heavily criticized for his comments is because of his reputation.

“The Catch” against the Cowboys in a nationally televised Sunday night game in his rookie season made him an internet sensation overnight. Since then, the blonde hair, tattoos, shoutouts from rappers like Drake and Quavo in their songs, and his social media activity have turned Odell into as much of a celebrity as an athlete. He is constantly in the spotlight, and his 11.7 million Instagram followers are the most of anyone in the NFL. Every single thing he does on the sidelines or comment he makes in front of the media is put under a magnifying glass.

He is seen as a “villain” by many fans as well, largely because of his feud in 2015 with then-Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. Odell was flagged three times for personal fouls in that matchup, attacking Norman several times throughout the game.

Odell also took a lot of heat in 2016 for his decision to take his fellow receivers to Miami to party a week before a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. In the game itself, he totaled just four receptions for 28 yards to go along with two drops, one of them in the endzone. Yes, he had a bad game. But the idea that the Miami trip was the cause of his poor performance is absolutely ludicrous. Does hanging out with your friends a week ago have any effect on you today?

Throughout his career, he has also been seen crying and screaming on the sideline, hitting the kicking net with his helmet, and getting into altercations with several defensive backs.

Playing sports, especially football, is an emotional affair, and Odell is an emotional guy. Not surprisingly, he will show his emotion and passion on the field.

Odell’s superstar status aside, viewing things from his human side may help us understand where he is coming from. If you have a special goal in mind that you have worked hard for many years in order to achieve, but something is preventing you from accomplishing that goal, you would be pretty upset. All he did was verbally express the fact that he is upset.

His comments didn’t damage the locker room, either. Odell is well-liked by most, if not all, of his teammates. All-Pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison said that he once trusted Odell to babysit his child alone. When Odell finally got paid, his teammates congratulated him and danced in the locker room, as seen in a video that was posted on Instagram minutes after the contract was finally signed.

And it can’t be a coincidence that the team played its best game of the season that Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Though the hard-fought battle ended in a loss (on a miraculous 63-yard field goal), the team clawed back from multiple deficits throughout the game and played with a lot of heart and passion that Odell wanted to see.

Sometimes, the truth hurts. And the unfortunate truth is that the Giants, particularly Manning, have not been playing well at all. But getting called out by someone for your inefficiencies every once in a while can help you become better in whatever field you are working in. Rather than letting a giant cloud hover over the team, Odell decided to address the elephant in the room even though he got blasted for his comments.

So as fans of the better New York football team (sorry, Jets fans), let’s all take a deep breath and relax. Try to understand Odell’s frustrations with the team, which currently has the worst record in the league and is using him as a scapegoat for their poor play. Leave his comments in the past because we’re in the midst of another long season. Just let the biggest star in New York City do his thing.