The boat trip the weekend before the playoff game in Green Bay … the interview with Lil Wayne that infuriated Pat Shurmur … the video of partying in bed with a model in Paris.
And the first red flag: The brouhaha with Josh Norman.
Three New York Giants head coaches — from Tom Coughlin to Ben McAdoo to Shurmur — could not tame the beast inside the young lion who could not fulfill his ambition to be legendary in New York.
The shame of it all is Odell Beckham Jr. might have had a puncher’s chance had Joe Judge been his head coach from the beginning.
It could be that no one, not even Vince Lombardi or Bill Parcells, could have solved the riddle of the young Beckham, whose otherworldly one-handed catch brought him fame too early and fortune after that.
As the Giants engage in joint practices with the Browns, I pose this question:
Would Beckham still be a Giant had Judge been his head coach in 2014, or 2016, or 2018?
Coughlin was two seasons removed from Super Bowl XLVI when then-general manager Jerry Reese gifted him Beckham, the playmaker he and Eli Manning craved, with the 12th pick of the NFL draft … and no one at the time was second-guessing passing on Aaron Donald, the 13th pick. Manning, of course, was also two years removed from Super Bowl XLVI and was about to enter his 11th season.
The kinder, gentler Coughlin who earned high praise for developing relationships with Giants players was, like everyone else, infatuated with a talent he hoped could help take him and his aging quarterback to a third championship. Coughlin and Manning were three seasons removed from their second championship when Beckham went WWE with Norman.
Beckham had already made his famous catch the previous November, and had become a bigger-than-life star. Coughlin opted not to remove Beckham from the Dec. 20, 2015, game against the Panthers in which the receiver and Norman tussled.
“I want him out there to win the football game,” Coughlin said.
He didn’t win the football game. And lost his chance to teach a discipline lesson to Beckham.
“He’s got to learn at some point how to deal with some things on the field,” Coughlin said. “He made some mistakes today, but I’m hoping he will recognize that and get over it.”
Parcells gave Lawrence Taylor more rope than anyone else, but there was a mutual respect there that was missing between the 69-year-old Coughlin and the 23-year-old Beckham.
Later, McAdoo was miffed at Beckham for not showing up for minicamp and Beckham was openly critical of Shurmur’s offense and of Manning.
The losing weighed on Beckham to the point at which he was more than ready to leave the bright New York stage that had illuminated his star.
From the day he was hired, it was clear Judge was the CEO that ownership had failed to land in the early years of the post-Coughlin Era.
He was not Bill Belichick II, but the Giants Way mimicked the Patriots Way in this regard: No one was above the team, and only winning mattered.
When I asked Judge on the day he was introduced as Giants head coach what it was that he would not tolerate, he said: “Anything that deters from the team’s ability to win.”
The Quest Diagnostics Training Center now houses a football factory, a place in which working on craft and getting better each and every day is the expectation. It’s a veritable football school with coaches hired because they can teach well enough to teach the players how to make the very best peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Judge’s Parcells-like knack for getting to know what makes each and every one of his players tick has helped foster trust.
He isn’t for everyone. But the level of buy-in he has gotten from his Giants has been eye-opening.
Golden Tate screaming, “Throw me the ball!” during a Monday night loss to the Buccaneers earned him discipline from Judge, and everyone understood why.
Would Beckham have abided by any zero tolerance policy?
Would he have bought in the way the Judge Giants have bought in to We Not Me?
That’s his $90 Million Question.
Belichick, of course, is not for everyone either, and while he had more pelts on his wall back then than Judge does now, the allure of winning —even inside a rigid football factory — was enough for the likes of Randy Moss and Corey Dillon (and playing with Tom Brady didn’t hurt, either). Judge has been about establishing that kind of culture.
Beckham’s recent injury woes have given Giants GM Dave Gettleman the current edge in the controversial trade that produced Dexter Lawrence, Jabrill Peppers and Oshane Ximines.
That would change if a healthy Beckham, now three months from 29, is instrumental in helping Baker Mayfield take the Browns to their first Super Bowl.
Would he be catching slants and taking them to the house for Daniel Jones if Judge were his Giants head coach?
We’ll never know.
You be the judge.
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