A rundown (with analysis) of the Giants-related Super Bowl headlines.
Although the New York Giants will be spectators of Sunday’s Super Bowl clash between New England and Atlanta, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some Giants-related news swirling about.
Beckham Lauded for Professionalism at the Pro Bowl
After getting the straight facts from general manager Jerry Reese during the Giants’ “Exit Day,” receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a lightning rod for controversy given his high level of emotions and competitive streak, was a model citizen at last week’s Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Per a report by ESPN, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent sent a letter to the Giants, Roger Goodell and Beckham’s agent praising the mercurial receiver for his conduct, the contents of which ESPN’s Jordan Raanan was able to obtain:
I would be remiss not to acknowledge how engaging and professional Odell Beckham Jr. was during the entire week of the Pro Bowl. “By far and away, he represented the New York Football Giants and the NFL with great poise, congeniality, and professionalism. … Odell single-handedly took our engagement to a higher level. You should be proud to have him representing your club and your city at the Pro Bowl and I didn’t want to go another day without writing to acknowledge his extraordinary efforts.
Beckham’s 2016 season was marred with some emotional and, at times, bizarre outbursts. These included a heated battle and then a “marriage proposal” to the kicking net; an alleged postgame outburst after a bitter loss to the Eagles in which Beckham allegedly banged his head against the wall; and his alleged temper tantrum after the Giants Wild Card loss to the Packers in which Beckham reportedly punched a hole in the wall outside of the visitors’ locker room at Lambeau Field.
Reese made it very clear when he spoke to the media on Exit Day that the organization expects Beckham to start maturing.
“We all have had to grow up at different times in our lives, and I think it is time for him to do that,” Reese said the day after the Giants were eliminated from the postseason.
“He has been here for three years now and is a little bit of a lightning rod because of what he does on the football field, but the things he does off the football field, he has to be responsible for those things.”
Pat’s Take: Despite his antics, Beckham is a solid citizen who goes out of his way to interact with fans, particularly children.
With that said, Beckham’s biggest issue—and this is often true of a lot of people in the sports and entertainment industries—is that he hasn’t yet figured out how to deal effectively with fame.
Beckham puts a great deal of pressure on himself to be a crowd pleasure hence the one-handed catches, the different cleats, the choreographed handshakes and his touchdown celebrations.
If Beckham can refocus his energies into working on those little nuances in his craft, he might come to the realization that to continue being worthy of the fans’ love and adulation, that’s really all it’s going to take over the long haul.
Manning Won’t Blame the O-Line for Offense’s Struggles
No one in the organization, from general manager Jerry Reese to head coach Ben McAdoo to Manning had any concrete answers as to why, despite having mostly the same personnel, the same play caller and the same scheme, the Giants offense fell from being a top-10 passing, scoring and overall (average yards per game) unit from 2015.
Quarterback Eli Manning, a finalist for the “Walter Payton Man of the Year” award, didn’t really have any concrete answers either, but he did say the blame starts with the guy he sees in the mirror every day.
“I’ve got to make throws, I’ve got to move in the pocket—everything,” he said per James Kratch of NJ Advance Media. “I’ve got a job to find completions and throw it.”
Manning refused to put the blame on his offensive line, who per official league statistics, allowed 64 hits and 22 sacks.
“Those guys up front are busting their tail, and they’re working,” Manning said. “We’ve all got to make improvements. I’m not going to sit here and talk about a specific group. As an offense, we’ve got to get better. It starts with me, but it’s a team effort to make sure everyone is doing their part, and doing better than what we did last year.”
Pat’s Take: Manning is not wrong in saying it starts with him as far too many times his decisions and some of his throws were real head-scratchers.
Still, one can’t help but wonder if some of that was a by-product of Manning not fully trusting his protection up front and him trying to simply press to make a play that he thought might be there but which wasn’t.
Former Kicker Josh Brown Denies Hitting ex-Wife
Former Giants kicker Josh Brown was back in the news again this week, speaking publicly for the first time about domestic violence allegations against his now ex-wife Molly.
Brown granted an interview to Good Morning America which aired Thursday. In the interview, Brown admitted to having engaged in domestic violence, but denied that he hit his ex-wife.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 2, 2017
“The world now thinks that I beat my wife and I have never hit this woman,” Brown said in the interview. “I never hit her,” Brown said. “I never slapped her. I never choked her. I never did those types of things.”
While trying to clarify what took place with his ex-wife, Brown did admit “what I did was wrong.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters this week that there is still an active investigation into Brown’s situation. The kicker has expressed an interest in continuing his NFL career, but remains on the commissioner’s exempt list.
“We do have an active investigation on Josh Brown,” Goodell said. “Last fall, we didn’t have all the information from law enforcement. We now have that information and we will continue that investigation. Until we have a final decision, we won’t be making any decisions about anyone’s eligibility on that front.”
Pat’s Take: The primary concern of the Brown family is that they continue to heal, especially the children who are part of the now dissolved marriage. While it’s admirable that Brown is taking steps to try to rehabilitate himself, it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever kick in the NFL again.
Victor Cruz Wants to Remain a Giant
Life as a New York Giant is all that receiver and Paterson, New Jersey native Victor Cruz has known in his professional career.
However, all good things must ultimately come to an end, and Cruz is very much aware that he’s reached a point in his career where he’s no lock to be a part of the team in 2017.
Speaking to a group of Giants beat writers at the Super Bowl, Cruz, per Kratch, said he hasn’t heard from the Giants regarding his future.
“I’m just handling things accordingly, going about my business the way I go about it,” he said. “But obviously in my heart, I want to stay here and finish my career here for as long as God determines.”
For Cruz, who has a $9.4 million cap figure for 2017 that includes a $1 million roster bonus due early in the new league year, to stay, he would be looking at having to redo his contract for a second year in a row.
“Last year, coming off two injury-riddled seasons, I knew that (a salary cut) was coming,” Cruz said per Kratch.
“Even this year, I understand the business side of it, and I understand what my numbers are, what I’m due to make next year. But it’s a little different having played and feeling good about myself, being confident with my abilities I can do, as opposed to last year, where it was still kind of unknown going into camp and going into OTAs. But now it feels a little bit better.”
Pat’s Take: Cruz has been one of the best feel-good stories to hit the Giants this decade, and not just because he fought his way back from two major injuries, one of which, the torn patellar, threatened his NFL career.
With that said, his take on things being “a little different” is not necessarily true. The reality of the situation is that Cruz is now on the wrong side of 30 and, in having made a position switch from the slot to the outside, he wasn’t as effective.
In 15 games played (12 starts)–he missed the Bengals game due to a sprained ankle–Cruz recorded 39 receptions for 586 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers were his lowest totals since the 2014 season (23 receptions for 33 yards and one touchdown) when the torn patellar injury cut short that season after six games.
The Giants drafted Sterling Shepard to be their slot receiver of the future, the role Cruz previously held. Beckham is one of the outside receivers, but they really could use a taller, more physical receiver to complement Beckham in the offense.
As for the money, the Giants would save $7.5 million if they cut Cruz, Cruz was the third-most targeted receiver on the team last year, his snap totals amounting to just 72 percent of the offensive snaps versus 95 percent and 94 percent for Shepard and Beckham respectively.
From a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense to continue to carry Cruz, whose per-game snap count also dipped after the Giants’ Week 8 bye.
It would be great if Cruz could finish his career as a Giant and leave on his own terms, but the numbers and the afore-mentioned factors don’t seem to favor that being the case.