My two cents, because everyone has an opinion about the trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. OBJ’s famous catch against the Dallas Cowboys is a microcosm of his career with the Giants. It might be the single greatest athletic, physics-defying, impossible catch ever made on a football field, but in the end it is merely a footnote. It’s not “The Catch” in the back of the end zone by Dwight Clark that propelled the 49’ers to their first Super Bowl, or Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” off a deflection against the Raiders in the AFC Championship game, or the balletic tip and layout by Lynn Swan against the Cowboys in Super Bowl X. It is not even the most exciting or famous catch in Giants history.
Mark Bavaro was everything that Beckham isn’t, an unselfish team-first warrior, aptly nicknamed “Rambo,” his own signature moment coming during an improbable comeback win against the 49’ers on Monday Night Football. Bavaro carried the entire 49’ers team on his back and willed the Giants to victory during their first championship season.
Then, there are the two greatest passes from the arm of Eli Manning, the sideline gem to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl 46 surpassed only by the great escape and “Helmet Catch” in Super Bowl XVII. Add in David Tyree’s TD catch earlier in the game, and you can argue that he surpassed Beckham’s entire five year career in a single day.
Somewhere along the way, in this stat-obsessed world of fantasy league sports, the NFL, and especially the New York Giants, forgot that football is a team game, and in the process, sold their soul and lost their identity. Unlike baseball, where individual statistics directly translate into victories–show me the back of a players’ baseball card and I can visualize their team’s level of success or failure–football is full of misleading individual statistics. Such is the case with OBJ; his most telling statistic? He has had four losing seasons out of five and had a key drop in his lone playoff game. He also has missed good parts of three seasons due to injury.
This obsession with statistics, removed from the flow of the game, was on full display in a recent article by James Koh:
OBJ has averaged 92.8 receiving yards per game in his career, the second-highest five-year average to start a career going all the way back to the 1970 merger per Pro Football Reference. More than Randy Moss, who averaged 84.3 yards per game over his first five years, and more than Jerry Rice, who averaged 83.7 yards per over his first five campaigns.
And since his rookie year in 2014, Odell has outpaced most of his contemporaries as well. He’s averaged more yards per game than DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans and A.J. Green. In fact only Julio Jones (103.8) and Antonio Brown (100.6) have averaged more yards per game than Beckham (92.8).
The Giants are also losing a guy that is a master tactician and a player that can create for himself.
According to Next Gen Stats, when lined up as an out wide receiver (as opposed to an inside slot man), Odell has averaged 2.8 yards of separation from his nearest defender since 2016. Among qualified outside wide receivers, that’s the best in the league. Davante Adams is fifth on this list, Antonio Brown sixth and Michael Thomas ninth.
Odell’s success rate versus man or press coverage never fell below the 98th percentile and last year, a perceived down year, he still scorched opposing defensive backs downfield as he scored an outrageously high 71.7 percent success rate on the nine route. You know those routes where you tell the receiver, just run downfield and catch it? He beat coverage 71.7 percent of the time. League average is around 54 percent.
WOW! And yet, Eli Manning, the man who threw Beckham all of those passes, is washed up. I know, I can’t have it both ways; Eli’s own statistics from this year are proof of how misleading individual stats are. Eli had a career high 66% completion percentage, throwing for 4,300 yards with 21 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions, but no one would argue that Eli had a good year.
This is my take on the decision made by GM Dave Gettleman and Giants ownership:
When OBJ was working for the new contract, he gave the impression that he had matured; showing up early for workouts, saying all the right things to the press, and quietly going about his business. Once he got the contract, he reverted back to form, which, I’m sure, enraged Giants owner John Mara who probably felt like he got played. This is why he was so vocal during the year in response to Beckham’s interviews and actions with the team. Then, OBJ sat out the last four games due to nagging quad pain. Add to that the Antonio Brown fiasco, where the Steelers got basically nothing, and I think they did a good job getting in front of the situation. They got a tough safety in Jabrill Peppers, 1st round and 3rd round draft picks, and 5-Mil in cap space which could potentially go to a fourth player. Now the picks need to be right.
I heard rumors that one of the first things OBJ is talking about is getting a new contract in Cleveland. I feel like I did back when the Giants made concessions to Jeremy Shockey. When Shockey got injured, I told my son it was a blessing in disguise. The Giants did just fine with Kevin Boss at TE in the Super Bowl run that came after Shockey went down, and I can see several guys stepping out from Beckham’s shadow, especially Evan Engram.
As for the QB situation, we will know a lot more in a few days when the Giants need to make a decision on Manning; they have until Sunday night to commit to the last year of his contract. I hear they are looking at Josh Rosen who might be available for a 3rd round pick, since the Cards are so high on drafting Murray. The Giants seem to have cooled on Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State, but that could be posturing by Gettleman. The next few months should be interesting…