Beckham, when he is on top of his game, is one of the NFL’s most electrifying receivers. The numbers don’t lie. Beckham had at least 90 receptions, 1,300 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns in his first three seasons.
He led the NFL in receiving yards per game (108) during his rookie season after missing the first month, winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and setting numerous franchise rookie receiving records.
Beckham reached the 200-career reception milestone faster than any player in NFL history, needing just 38 games. He’s also tied with Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the fastest to reach 4,000 career receiving yards. Both Beckham and Alworth reached that milestone in 42 games.
Beckham also earned kudos for his toughness when he elected to play on an injured ankle last season, although he was ultimately lost for the season when re-injured it after just four regular season games.
Beckham’s on-the-field prowess cannot be denied. His behavior, at times, has raised eyebrows.
Who can forget his feud with then-Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman during a 2015 Week 15 game? Beckham was flagged four times, including three personal fouls. After being held without a reception in the first half, Beckham finished with six receptions for 76 yards and a game-tying touchdown. However, Beckham’s conduct earned him a one-game suspension.
In the 2016 regular season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, Beckham and former teammate Victor Cruz were fined $12,154 for unsportsmanlike conduct after a touchdown celebration. The following week, Beckham was fined $36,000 for a blindside hit on New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.
In Week 3, Beckham and Norman, now with the Washington Redskins, faced each other for the first since their initial tussle. Beckham got the best of Norman on the field but his performance was overshadowed by what can only be described as a temper tantrum involving a kicking net.
Six days before the Giants’ first postseason game since winning Super Bowl XLVI, Beckham and a group of teammates took an ill-advised trip to Miami that made the rounds on social media.
After the Giants’ playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, Beckham punched a hole in the wall of the visitors’ locker room at Lambeau Field. The Miami field trip was not the reason the Giants lost the game (16 of 22 Giants starters playing in their first postseason game at the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field impacted the game more than any excursion to Miami) but, naturally, it was all people could talk about. Beckham’s performance (four receptions for 28 yards) was also a hot topic.
Beckham drew the ire of some last year when he elected to skip the team’s offseason workouts to train on his own. He further agitated detractors when he said he wanted to be the NFL’s highest paid player before the start of training camp. Beckham also did himself no favors with his canine touchdown celebration at Lincoln Financial Field.
In spite of being ahead of schedule in returning from his ankle injury, Beckham has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. He used an appearance on the red carpet at the NFL Honors to reiterate his desire to be the NFL’s highest paid player but acknowledged that getting quarterback money might be too much to ask.
Beckham was then seen a video clip with a French Instagram model holding what many perceive to be a marijuana cigar. The model was holding a credit card sitting in front of a white, powdery substance. This week, Beckham was accused of being involved in a brawl at an Atlanta strip club.
The Morality Police a.k.a. the television talking heads began using phrases like “he needs to grow up” and “act like a professional”. Cris Carter, whose own substance abuse issues are well documented, used his FOX television show to throw stones at Beckham despite living in a glass house himself.
Beckham will play 2018 under the fifth-year tender of his rookie contract. If he returns to the Pro Bowl form exhibited in his first three seasons, he will most assuredly earn a large payday. The Giants have said they want Beckham to remain with the team for the duration of his career. The real question is should they invest long-term in the mercurial, yet extremely talented wide receiver?
Of course, the detractors will point to every Beckham headline that has nothing to do with his play. They will accuse him of being a diva wide receiver not worth the time or money. They will say that the Giants don’t invest long-term in players who are “distractions” …and they will be lying through their teeth.
Lawrence Taylor, regarded by many as the greatest defensive player in NFL history, had a substance abuse problem as well documented as Carter’s.
Taylor failed drug tests throughout his career and was suspended by the league. Taylor’s questionable conduct wasn’t limited to just drugs and alcohol. He admitted in a 2003 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace that he once showed up to a team meeting wearing handcuffs after spending an evening with call girls.
In spite of Taylor’s checkered personal history while playing, he spent his entire career and went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Giant.
Tiki Barber, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 10,449 yards, publicly called out his teammates and coaches during his career. Barber took issue with Michael Strahan’s approach to contract negotiations in 2002. He accused Strahan of being greedy when he refused to take less money to lower the team’s salary cap.
“I don’t know if he realizes how much $17 million is,” Barber said in an interview with the New York Post. “That is absolutely ridiculous, to turn that down. He’s already the highest-paid defensive player in the league. He’s already making more than most quarterbacks. Michael is not thinking about the team; he’s thinking about himself.”
Strahan took the high road, refusing “to get stressed out” about Barber’s issue with the way he was handling his contract situation. Keith Hamilton, a teammate of both Strahan and Barber, wasn’t as cordial when he admonished Barber for “acting like he’s Mr. New York” and saying “all the politically correct things”. Hamilton also called out Barber for “acting like he’s in the best interest of the team” and advising him to “give his $7 million (signing bonus) back” if he was so concerned about the team.
Barber was critical of former head coach Tom Coughlin, in spite of Coughlin fixing his fumble problem. He called out Coughlin after a 2005 playoff loss to the Panthers led by former Giants defensive coordinator John Fox. He also said “Coughlin pushed him in the direction of television” because of Coughlin’s unyielding style in practice.
Barber also tossed verbal darts at quarterback Eli Manning’s ability to lead. The normally stoic Manning responded with a few jabs of his own. Of course, the two Super Bowls won without Barber speak louder than any sound bite.
Beckham has made some very questionable decisions both on and off the field. He hasn’t, however, tested positive for any illegal substances or called out teammates and coaches. Beckham also has never been accused of domestic violence (a la former kicker Josh Brown) or any other crime. In addition, no one has ever questioned Beckham’s heart or desire to play.
The Giants have dealt with players with larger than life personas/personalities before. Beckham is not the first and he won’t be the last. They will need to decide of Beckham’s penchant for headlines that have nothing to do with football outweigh his otherworldly talent.