Odell Beckham Jr. is right to dismiss doubters, Super Bowl redemption narrative | Opinion
Odell Beckham Jr. insists he’s not concerned with telling anyone “I told you so.”
He’s not looking for apologies.
And as the wide receiver finds himself on the cusp of pro football’s crowning achievement, he swears he takes no satisfaction in having disproven the critics, who predicted that after unceremonious exits from his two previous teams, he’d again show himself as a distraction and a headache.
“Naw,” Beckham, who on Sunday will try to help the Los Angeles Rams win Super Bowl 56, said with a chuckle.
“A younger me definitely would have,” Beckham said, “but I feel like I’ve come so far, and I really know who I am. I know myself. I know what I can bring. I know all of the stories and all that. So it’s tough to answer, but I don’t really take any satisfaction because I know it’s not that deep for me. Because I know who I am.
“I’m just happy that I’m in position to play for a Super Bowl, and I just hope that I can give one last-ditch effort to bring home that trophy.”
After all the struggle and strife – falling-outs with two teams (the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns) and various injuries – and a move out West, one of the game’s biggest stars has found peace.
Done with the attention grabs, the self-promoting, defending himself against critics. This version of OBJ – at least in his own eyes and words – is nothing but a grateful dream-chaser.
SEAN MCVAY VS. ZAC TAYLOR:NFL's coaching revolution in Super Bowl spotlight
Odell Beckham Jr. is a complex individual. Rather than dream-chaser, many would describe him as a diva – someone motivated more by individual goals than the greater good of the teams he starred on.
Beckham is partly to blame for that because of the persona he contrived while blossoming into one of the NFL’s most electrifying pass-catchers and entertaining figures off the field. Immaturity guided some of his steps and missteps, but so, too, did the outward pressure that Beckham allowed himself to both feel and internalize.
Having finally leveraged himself into the situation he craved most – a meaningful and consistent role on a championship-caliber team, where trust and mutual respect run strong between players and coaches – Beckham is indeed reshaping the narrative surrounding him.
No one in Cleveland or New York ever faulted Beckham's talent or work ethic. But multiple individuals in those organizations questioned his ability to put team above self.
But Los Angeles coaches and players know nothing of that Beckham.
In the 13 weeks since his release from the Browns – a move that ended a disappointing 28-game experiment marked by poor chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield – the wide receiver has settled right in with the Rams.
The 29-year-old Beckham came to Los Angeles, willingly accepting a secondary role. He helped his new team absorb the season-ending loss of reliable receiver Robert Woods. He earned the trust of quarterback Matthew Stafford and added another dimension to the offense while perfectly complementing Cooper Kupp, the NFL’s leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
Beckham’s statistical contributions have not been gaudy. But the 27 catches for 305 yards and five touchdowns in eight regular-season games and another 19 receptions for 246 yards and a touchdown this postseason – including nine grabs for 119 yards in the NFC championship game – have indeed proved meaningful. And without these contributions, the Rams very likely would not have won their division or reached the Super Bowl.
But here they are. And here stands Beckham, savoring the realization of a boyhood dream.
“I remember watching the Super Bowl – I can’t remember which one, but it was probably Tom Brady – but wanting to be there so bad,” Beckham said. “As a kid, you say the words, ‘I’m going to play in the Super Bowl,’ and now at, 29 years old, here I am with my first opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. It’s just a dream come true.”
This opportunity far outshines the feelings of vindication, he insists.
The rockiest portions of his journey taught him to stop caring about outward perceptions and to instead focus solely on his mission of achieving greatness.
When his 2020 season ended after seven games because of a torn ACL, Beckham took self-inventory. Those inward reflections and forward visions served as blinders and formed his indifference to outside perceptions.
“I think it’s been brewing for a couple years, months, but definitely as the ACL happened and that full recovery was going on – leading up to it, I was trying to get there,” Beckham said. “But definitely having this time to rebuild myself – my mind, my body, my soul – is when it definitely hit. It just kind of clicked for me that – I always use the analogy that Purell kills 99.9% of germs, and there’s still that whatever percent that, people are always going to be naysayers. So I just kind of gave up on trying to make everybody like you or appease them. It’s never going to work — there’s always going to be one out of 100.”
In his return to the field this fall, Beckham sought to re-establish himself with the Browns.
But he never was truly happy there. Mayfield’s inconsistencies drove Beckham mad, and everyone both inside and outside the organization knew it. The Browns eventually deemed the relationship unsalvageable and granted the receiver his release.
Many people fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy, forcing themselves to follow through on endeavors because they have invested time and energy, despite knowing the costs of said investments greatly outweigh the benefits.
Beckham is someone who chooses to do the opposite.
He realized the ship was sinking in New York and leveraged a trade. Cleveland wasn’t his first choice, but it represented another opportunity.Then this season, with Mayfield on a path of regression and Beckham believing his talents were going to waste, he secured his freedom.
He didn’t worry about the fact that another career reset would only perpetuate his casting as a villain.
Timein the NFL is finite, Beckham recognized, so the desire to pursue his individual goals while helping elevate a team on course for success served as his fuel.
Readily embraced by the Rams, Beckham now has everything he has ever wanted: a setting where he feels valued, properly used and positioned for ultimate success. As he has capitalized on this situation, he has dispelled the negative notions one by one without even consciously doing so because he already rid himself of that burden.
“You definitely feel free,” Beckham said with a smile and exhale. “When you erase all of that and realize that you were carrying other people’s problems, things that they needed to work on with themselves, and it was kind of weighing me down, and I feel like it could’ve been the reason why I was injured time after time after time. There was a point where I wanted to prove people wrong more than I wanted to be myself and prove myself right. So I definitely feel that weight lifted off my shoulders and feel less weight that I’m carrying.”
This lighter, more fulfilled and focused Beckham has seen his journey bring him to the doorstep of fulfilling his lifelong aspiration. Hoisting the Lombardi trophy would provide him with the ultimate “I told you so,” even if he no longer craves that flex.
Beckham may never shed the villain label in some minds. But now at peace with that fact, the dream-chaser has reached the point of not caring, and rightfully so.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.