When Odell Beckham hit Saqoun Barkley with a 57 yard touchdown pass at Bank of America Stadium against the Carolina Panthers in week 5 last season, the ball traveled 24 yards in the air before Barkley secured it and ran the rest of the way to the end zone. Eli Manning at that time had not had a touchdown pass travel 24 yards since week 5 the previous season; a pass that was thrown to Beckham! Just a few hours before Beckham’s touchdown connection with Barkley he did an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson. With rapper Lil Wayne by his side, Beckham hinted that he was frustrated with Manning’s lack of productivity. Let’s not forget, Beckham had suffered a season ending injury in week 5 the previous season, in large part due to an inaccurate short pass thrown by Manning that was too high, forcing Beckham to jump, putting himself in a vulnerable position that ended with his ankle being shattered. Look up the broadcast and hear what Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts had to say about the quality of the pass. Without Beckham, Manning and the Giants passing game was lifeless and led to the franchise’s worse record since 1974.
Hence a strong case can be made that Beckham saved Manning’s career. The year before Beckham showed up in Gotham, 2013, Manning had the worse season of any quarterback in the NFL. The team started 0-6 largely because of his dismal performance. Eli threw 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, and led the NFL in turnovers. Even Geno Smith, who started every game for the Jets as a rookie had less. But when Manning was benched for Geno in 2017 when the Giants were 2-9, everyone lost their mind. As if it was beneath Manning to be sat down in favor of Smith, in what was the franchise’s worse season in over 40 years.
After the worse season of his career in 2013 Giants then General Manager, Jerry Reese, selected Odell Beckham in the next year’s draft and arguably prolonged Manning’s career beyond what it would have been had Beckham not shown up. Imagine how much worse off Manning’s statistics and the Giants offense would have been had Beckham not been an option for Manning to throw to? Imagine how unwatchable the offense would have been.
After Odell came on the scene Manning threw 30 touchdowns in 2014 and 35 in 2015, which was no coincidence. That was just the 2nd and 3rd and final time of his career in which he reached the 30 touchdown mark. The only other time Eli had thrown for 30 touchdowns in a season was when he threw 31 in 2010, but he also led the league in interceptions with 25. When Manning was throwing for those 30 and 35 touchdowns Beckham was having two of the greatest first seasons by a receiver in league history. In his rookie season Beckham became the first rookie in league history to catch 75 balls for 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he wasn’t finished yet. He also set the rookie record for most receiving yards per game with 108.8. And although he missed the first three games of that season, the rook still caught 91 balls for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. The following season he caught 96 balls for 1,405 yards and 13 touchdowns. Beckham was clearly a one man band; the type of player who caught short passes between five and ten yards and took them another 40,50,60,70 yards to the end zone with his remarkable talent.
The numbers from all the spectacular plays that Beckham made also goes towards Manning’s stats. Week 15 of 2015 was the infamous Josh Norman game in which Beckham nearly lost his mind in a running dispute with Norman the entire game. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton came on the field at one point during the game to try and talk some sense into Beckham. Nowhere to be found was Eli Manning who showed a lack of leadership in that situation. Because lets face it, he didn’t have it in him to tell Beckham to knock it off the way quarterbacks who garner respect have done throughout the course of football history. Does anyone believe Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Eli’s brother would have stood for a receiver behaving in such a reckless manner? Baker Mayfield for sure seems like the type of quarterback who would’ve had no problem getting in Beckham’s face and telling him to stop it! For all the praise that Eli Manning gets for being a leader he didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to get up in Beckham’s grill.
I guess when your star receiver is the sole reason why the offense has any kind of pulse and everyone inside the locker room knows that’s the real deal, it becomes hard for one to feel like they can command respect – especially from the goose that lays the golden eggs. The following week against Minnesota, Beckham was suspended for the Norman incident and Manning had a bad day without him. He went 15-29 for 234 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Manning’s lone touchdown came late in the 3rd quarter with the Giants trailing 32-3, having been unable to move the ball the entire game up to that point. The end of that season marked four consecutive seasons that the Giants failed to make the playoffs. Tom Coughlin, the Head Coach of the two Super Bowl teams that Manning was a part of, was fired following the season. Not Manning of course, he’s never held accountable for anything with the New York giants, someone else always takes the fall.
As the 2019 season comes upon us, Manning would now be on his seventh straight season not making the playoffs had it not been for 2016. A season in which he was bad but the Giants managed to have a solid season in spite of him. Manning was ranked 27 in QBR ahead of only Blake Bortles, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum. The Giants offense failed to score 30 points at least once the entire season. In fact, the last six games of the season they failed to score 20 points, and that was with Odell Beckham on the field, who it feels like is worth two touchdowns a game by himself. Two games for sure that season, Beckham single handedly won the game for the Giants. With the Giants struggling to score points in Week 6 against Baltimore and week 12 against Cleveland, Beckham took over the game on both occasions scoring two touchdowns late in the second half to carry them to victory. What propelled the Giants to an 11-5 record that season was a defense ranked 2nd in the league, a weak schedule and Odell Beckham’s phenomenal play where he caught 101 balls for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns!
Beckham led a group trip of Giant’s wide receivers to Miami on the off day of their first round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau. It was a mistake, he was criticized roundly for it. He started the playoff game against the Packers with a couple of drops early in the game. The defense kept the team in the game until Aaron Rodgers turned up and got hot. When the game became a shootout that was it, because Manning rarely competes in shootouts. If his defense can keep the opponent to a manageable score then he has a chance to make a few plays and win the game. Once it gets to a legit shootout he can’t keep up. Beckham finished the game with 4 catches for 28 yards. Of course when Beckham was not great, making big plays, the offense was not competitive. Beckham was trashed heavily by the media and fans for his dropped passes. As if Manning never makes a poor pass or a bad decision. The drops by the Giants receivers early in the game was used as a blanket excuse to absolve Manning’s mediocre game. Even though there was a whole three and a half quarters left of that game to make things happen.
The next season began with Beckham missing the first game with an injured ankle and Eli and the offense was pathetic; scoring just 3 points in an opening night loss to the Dallas Cowboys. In week five against San Diego the fateful short pass from Manning to Beckham ended his season with a devastating ankle injury. Without him the offense couldn’t’ do anything and the team finished 3-13. Even after adding one of the rising superstars of the NFL the following season, Saqoun Barkley, at running back the offense led by the quarterback, again underachieved all season long. Without Beckham in New York, expect Manning’s numbers and the Giants offense to continue struggle in 2019. Expect the Browns with Beckham and Baker Mayfield to put up a lot of points this season with the rest of their highly talented offensive personnel.
The young receiver apparently learned his lesson from the Norman fiasco and the ill-conceived Miami trip, he has matured a lot since those incidents and has not committed those mistakes again. Beckham’s only problem with the Giants was allowing frustration from years of bad quarterback play, and the lack of winning as a result, to get the best of him. Plus trying to hold a quarterback accountable in a town where nobody else does. Give Beckham credit for that, and for wanting to win! Surely his teammates in New York felt the same way. But, alas, speaking honestly about Eli Manning and his shortcomings in New York is a risky business: no matter how bad he plays. Hence Odell, the only member of the team to speak up on the question, was shipped off to Cleveland.