Odell Beckham Jr. caught nine passes for 113 yards in Sunday’s NFC championship game, including a 29-yard reception on the game-tying field goal drive, in the Los Angeles Rams’ come-from-behind 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
OBJ is headed to his first Super Bowl as the Rams will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Los Angeles in two weeks. It’s been a long road for the embattled wide receiver.
“Everything about this place is right, and it’s done right,” Beckham said. “It’s just been an incredible opportunity that I feel like I’m just trying to make the most of. Here we are playing in the Super Bowl, one game away from our dreams. Just keep going.”
That sounds like a man with some perspective.
God bless football pic.twitter.com/CZQfaHqOY1
— Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz (@LeBatardShow) January 31, 2022
This is Beckham’s eighth NFL season, and the way he burst onto the scene many would’ve thought he’d have reached and possibly won a Super Bowl by now. But a very bright start to his career hit some rough patches.
He was drafted 12th overall by the New York Giants in 2014. Playing in only 12 games, as he missed all of training camp and the first four games with a hamstring injury, Beckham finished the season with 91 receptions for 1,205 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Beckham was the lone bright spot in a 6-10 Giants season, highlighted by his miraculous one-handed touchdown catch on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys, and Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors.
Two more All-Pro and Pro Bowl seasons followed. The Giants were 6-10 and 11-5, respectively. That third season is when things started to change. Beckham proposed to the kicking net, he lost his mind in a matchup against corner Josh Norman, and then there was the infamous Timberland yacht party in Miami before the team’s wild-card playoff game.
Beckham’s final two seasons in New York were injury plagued and after the 2018 season, then Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, after making OBJ the highest-paid wide receiver in the game, traded the most talented player in team history to the Cleveland Browns.
OBJ had a solid 1,000-yard season in his first year with the Browns, but you could see that he and quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled to get on the same page. He tore his ACL in the 2020 season, and the Browns made the playoffs without him — behind marginally better play from Mayfield. This, of course, sparked the “Are the Browns and Mayfield better without OBJ?” question that dominated the talking head shows.
It reached a point of no return this season. Beckham was an afterthought in the Browns offense, and he and Mayfield were not in sync at all. Beckham’s father posted a video on social media of all the times his son was open and Mayfield failed to deliver the football. That all but ended his tenure in Cleveland.
Odell Beckham Jr. is in the one percent of athletic talents in the world. The man is supremely gifted at just about everything athletically: Running, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking. His hand-eye coordination is legendary.
In high school he was the guy that lettered in every sport he played, and was the best on the team: Football, basketball and track. He was also so good at soccer that he was offered an opportunity to try out for the junior national team, but didn’t want to spend the requisite time overseas that would require.
He was probably also the guy in high school that was most popular among many of the female students. I bring that up because that’s how OBJ carries himself. He knows he’s gifted and talented and he will let you know it too.
Add that with the hubris of youth and celebrity and it may cause other people to feel some kind of way. More so than arrogance, I think Beckham is just really good at a lot of things and can’t really deal with being on a team with others who aren’t on his level.
That was the source of a lot of his frustrations in New York and Cleveland. Beckham wasn’t always right, and turned in some less-than-stellar performances to be sure. But it was never because he didn’t care or want to win.
No matter how gifted you are as an athlete, your playing career won’t last forever. Injuries, age and all the other things that come with playing a high-impact sport limit your time. Perhaps Beckham sees things differently now.
At 29, your perspective is very different than at 22. With the Rams, he is not a solo talent. He’s in an environment with a lot of other superbly talented players, like his friends Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey.
“I remember everything was going down and I was getting that phone call from Von and Jalen every day,” Beckham told reporters. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man. I don’t know.’ It just was on my heart and I feel like this was the right place. Just truly an amazing moment. Here with Von, this is a brother. We talked about this. Didn’t ever think that it would really be possible, and here we are.”
We often look at athletes as plug and play. They’re so gifted. You put them anywhere and you expect production. But that takes the human element out of it. Where an athlete plays is very important. That’s the environment where they spend the majority of their time. In order for optimal success, it has to be the right mix.
In that way, athletes are no different than the rest of us. We know what situations allow us to thrive and do our best work.
For Beckham that place looks like it’s in LA with the Rams, and in two weeks he and his teammates will host the biggest game of the season with a chance to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Rams head coach Sean McVay is happy Beckham has found the right environment with him in LA.
“Odell was outstanding today,” McVay said during his postgame news conference. “To be able to go over 100 [yards], he had some key and critical catches to be able to extend drives. . . . He’s a special player. He’s so smart. He’s so talented, so gifted and he’s brought such a charisma and a presence and really a swag to our team.”