On a day of a lot of big storylines, none was bigger than Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. The most hotly-anticipated individual matchup of Week 15, the duel more than lived up to the hype in many ways, with Norman shutting OBJ down for most of the day, but Beckham coming free to catch touchdown to tie up the game in the last minutes.
While that matchup showed some great football, it also highlighted how the competitive nature of players at the top of the game can spill out into what some commentators tactfully refer to as ‘extra-curricular activities’. In many ways, it was reminiscent of Norman’s teammate Cortland Finnegan’s fight with Andre Johnson in 2010; unlike that game, however, neither player was ejected.
While both players undoubtedly added their own fuel to yesterday’s fire, by far the most egregious act was Beckham seemingly lining up Norman and then deliberately spearing him in the head. With the referees not ejecting Beckham after such a blatant act, we ask the question: should Giants head coach Tom Coughlin have taken it on himself to bench OBJ?
Benching Beckham would have been both the ethical and logical decision
by Charlie Anderson
Odell Beckham Jr. is a great wide receiver, arguably one of the best in the game. With his big play ability and large wing-span, Eli Manning is often tasked with just throwing the ball up to allow OBJ to make a play on the ball, we’ve seen it time and time again.
Tale of the tape
It’s Week 15 of the NFL calendar and the Giants are facing off against the undefeated Panthers at MetLife Stadium. Star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. lines up against shutdown corner Josh Norman, and you know a battle is about to go down. First possession of the drive Josh Norman gets beat deep by Odell who drops a sure-fire TD at the 20-yard line. OBJ, on one of the following plays of this drive, is held up by Josh Norman then dropped to the ground. *Cue the Rocky theme music* OBJ was then held for 0 catches, for 0 yards for the entire first half, as he spent the entirety of the 1st and 2nd quarter grabbing the facemask, throwing punches and committing unsportsmanlike conduct penalties towards Norman. This became the majority of the game for OBJ, and as much as he got back from the defensive back in terms of physical play; the level of after-whistle and unsportsmanlike conduct was not only unnecessary, but arguably something that as a coach myself, I would have benched a player for.
Respect for the coach
A coach is often defined by their actions when dealing with difficult situations such as this: one of your star players is acting like a tool, both by deliberately trying to injure an opponent, and losing your offense yards on multiple occasions. Now I am truly in the belief that no single player is bigger than the team, and by Odell being on the field, you are harming your team, regardless of his abilities as a playmaker. Think about how the other players on the team feel about this: Damontre Moore was benched in Week 6 for a “dumb” roughing the passer penalty. There’s no consistency in the way Coughlin applies discipline and it could potentially split the locker room.
Sending a message
By benching him, he would have shown that this behaviour would not be tolerated, and would show consistency across the team. Now I know he is being paid millions to be on the field, but Coughlin needs his players and fans to understand it is a team game, not “the Odell Beckham Jr show” and if he believes his team cannot win without the wide receiver, he’s clearly not doing a good job coaching his team.
From a financial perspective
By keeping OBJ on the field you are letting him rack up fines. A regular unsportsmanlike conduct foul will cost a player $8,681 according to spotrac.com for a first offense. You then get games where a player will be fined for multiple infractions; Vontaze Burfict was charged $69,454 for multiple plays where he committed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Pittsburgh in week 14. The continued actions of Beckham Jr. could massively affect his bank balance.
This isn’t the first time that OBJ has been in an altercation during a game for the Giants; in Week 4 he was involved in multiple altercations against the Bills’ defense due to their physical press-coverage style of play. He was also fined in 2014 for his role in a brawl against the St. Louis Rams. He’s not a first-time offender, and the public are becoming aware of this.
Odell Beckham Jr. is the poster boy for the NFL, he’s on the front cover on Madden, and he’s making incredible catches week-in, week-out, boosting sales of NFL merchandise. For all of the actions he carried out last night, not least the deliberate attempt to target the head of Josh Norman and knock him out of the game, he could be facing an immediate suspension. Tom Coughlin had multiple opportunities to make an example of OBJ to his players, and hopefully remove the risk of the potential suspension that he may receive in the coming weeks. By not benching Odell Beckham Jr. Tom Coughlin has shown that he’s putting winning games ahead of his team’s culture, and in the process, he may have harmed his team’s future chances of winning games.
This is a violent game – the refs should be keeping order on the field, not the coaches
by Nathan Hards
Odell Beckham Jr successfully made himself one of the most talked about players in the game last night – again. The internet is in uproar against OBJ, for his unnecessarily aggressive playing against Josh Norman. People are demanding to know why he wasn’t benched by Coughlin to send a message. Here are some reasons why doing so would have been a bad move:
Josh Norman isn’t your mother
The game of football is an aggressive and intense one. We’re talking about 200lb+ men running into each other at speeds in excess of 15mph. Amped up tanks pushing each other to the very limit of their physical abilities to gain an advantage. Last night, OBJ got physical with Norman on several occasions, and the world leapt to his defence against the awful Odell. You know what? He lost almost every one. Norman is a big boy, and he easily dealt with the scrappy wide receiver, which is why he was on that field. He doesn’t need to be protected from rough play, he’s a defensive player, he lives on rough play.
The refs need to make the call
The refs have the ability to flag, and even eject a player from the field for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct. They didn’t. Now people are questioning that decision, and demanding justice for poor Josh. This was a big talking point in the game, but had almost no impact on the actual plays themselves. OBJ was the equivalent of a wet flannel on Norman, and the refs recognised that. OBJ was trying to get a reaction, and Norman didn’t give it to him. Why should any coach be expected to bench one of his players for being a bit naughty, if the refs don’t feel the need to take immediate action?
Tactics are sometimes ugly
Norman was the main person that was going to be able to go up against OBJ to try and stop the WR in his tracks. The Giants knew this, and so OBJ went out of his way to aggravate and antagonise Norman. Push him until he pops, get him to flare up, and see if you can get him to make a mistake. That was clearly the plan, and they committed to it. The Panthers clearly saw this, and let him do his thing, and took no action. Let them flail, the Panthers defense will just keep pounding, and he’s just wasting energy.
The Giants are simply a better team with Beckham on the field
If the refs aren’t going to eject Beckham, why should Coughlin actively hurt his team’s chances of winning the game? The Giants were in a three-way tie for the NFC East lead, and couldn’t afford to lose ground to Washington and the Eagles. Taking your best playmaker off the field would have made no sense, and that decision was justified when Beckham caught a touchdown to tie up the game in the last few minutes and bring the Giants within a whisker of ending the Panthers’ perfect season.
You’ll see behaviour like this all the time. The only issue is that it was OBJ, and he’s a big face, and a big name. People want to pull him down, and show him up. He’s more than capable of doing that himself. One day, he’s going to pull that on the wrong guy, and he’ll be put down. In the meanwhile, it’s football. This stuff happens.