It’s hard to say when Odell Beckham Jr lost his marbles and morphed into some flesh-hungry creature out of Ash vs Evil Dead.
But yesterday’s performance against the Carolina Panthers was more than woeful or regretful or unfortunate, or whatever corporate buzzword athletes hide behind these days. And it makes those of us who put Beckham in rather regal company last week look a little silly. But not as silly as Beckham himself looked.
Beckham can hide behind statements, pressers and platitudes. He can say Josh Norman taunted or threatened him beyond the normal, subterranean levels of trash talk.
But you can’t have it.
And it’s hard to say which was more alarming — Beckham’s assault on Norman, the referees’ unwillingness to squash it or Coughlin’s aversion to addressing it on the sideline or in the post-game remarks.
Coughlin came to New York with a reputation for being an old-school coach in a new world. Many Giants fans were worried about Coughlin because he’d already been fired by an NFL team. Never mind his calcified approach and his unwillingness to meet the contours of the 21st-century athlete. Even when he arrived in the Big Apple, he suggested injuries were a thing of the mind. More of the same.
So, after a few failed seasons, Coughlin relaxed. He asked players how they were doing. When the team was gassed from the microwave heat of training camp, he took them bowling. He even smiled at least once a month.
But no one expected this, for Coughlin to merely frown from the sidelines and look the other way while Beckham made a mockery of his team.
If you want to see a perfect microcosm, a metaphor for the blinding difference between a 14-0 and 6-8 football team, just watch what happened to each combatant as they melted into their respective benches. Norman was counseled, scolded, admonished by team leaders who knew more was on the line than a staring contest between two high-end football players.
Beckham ran the sideline with impunity, with shrieking, spastic gestures and chest-thumping. It was all about Beckham. Never the team. And he was coddled for it.
After Beckham finally made a catch of import, near the end of the game, he ran off the field like he won the Super Bowl. Or more like an Oscar. Preening and basking, while his teammates encouraged his rants, Beckham reminded us that he’s not only the most talented player, but also the most self-involved.
It’s not news that companies, teams and towns will tolerate someone’s eccentricities when they produce. But there has to be some emotional membrane shielding them from the greater good. If the employee can’t build it, then the employer must.
Yesterday showed there’s more mayhem on the Giants than anyone realized, or would have expected under Tom Coughlin. If Coughlin’s detractors were growing in number and volume before yesterday’s disaster, then it’s nearly impossible to defend him now.
Beckham is barely an adult. Perhaps you can forgive his outburst, after the requisite discipline that should follow. But the Giants know better. This is a seminal, NFL franchise, the football iteration of an Original Six team. And no one understands their historical prerogatives more than Coughlin, who has to go.
Tom Coughlin has let Odell Beckham Jr. hold the Giants hostage. Because they have a dearth of dominant talent everywhere else. Because Eli Manning, the only other star on the team, isn’t the kind of throaty leader who would rope Beckham back to sanity. Because Coughlin has lost the team.
Yesterday was a dual referendum on a player gone wild and a coach gone missing. This wouldn’t have happened under Bill Belichick, Mike McCarthy, Mike Tomlin, or Tom Coughlin five years ago.
But it’s today. And the time has passed Coughlin by. Which means it’s time for the esteemed coach to exit stage left. Yesterday won’t ruin his legacy, but it should end his employment.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.