EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Odell Beckham Jr. is going to take a lot of heat for questioning his teammates' "heart" and "passion" and you can be sure there are people in the Giants organization who wish he hadn't done it.
But here's the thing: He's hardly the first player to try to light a fire under a dead team by using those loaded words.
Also, Beckham is right.
The Giants are 1-3 and can barely move the ball on offense and have the listless feel about them of a team coming off a 3-13 season and feeling like all is already lost again. Beckham was waving his arms and screaming like a madman at times during the Giants' loss to the Saints on Sunday. Do you know why that was so noticeable?
Because he was the only one.
The rest of the team sometimes acts like a dead branch on a tree. They haven't shown much "heart," "passion" or "energy" since 2016, when they got a jolt in their first-year under Ben McAdoo and went 11-5. It's been one long dirge ever since. A chorus of "Woe is us" inside the locker room as they reassure each other that everything is going to be alright, even though no one can figure out exactly how that's going to be happen.
So maybe instead of getting worked up about Beckham speaking out and drawing attention to himself and some unwanted attention to his teammates, maybe the correct response this time is for the Giants to follow his lead.
"Our team has a heck of a lot of heart," said Giants coach Pat Shurmur. "Our team plays with a lot of energy. What we haven't done is we haven't executed quite as well as we need to yet, and that's really, instead of energy, it's more execution. That's what we're all striving for. We've got a locker room full, these guys have a ton of heart, including Odell, and a lot of want-to. And I think we'll break over here once we start executing better."
Maybe he's right about that. But there's a big difference between having "heart" and "want-to" and playing with it. It is ridiculous that with all of the Giants' offensive talent that they haven't scored 30 points since Tom Coughlin's final game as head coach. That's not all on the quarterback or the offensive line or the scheme or just bad luck. Some of it is about desire, about attacking, about sheer will.
What's wrong with saying the Giants need more of that? Antrel Rolle did it back in 2011 when he ripped some of his teammates -- including, but not by name, defensive captain Justin Tuck -- for not battling harder through injuries. There was outrage at the time. Tuck was furious. But he got over it. He took the criticism to heart.
And the Giants went on a Super Bowl run.
Sure, that was a different team with better players and characters. But so what? That team needed that verbal kick in the butt, and clearly so does this group. This Giants team sits back and lets the opposition dictate how games are played. When they get down, their whole sideline looks deflated and everyone can see it and feel it.
Seriously, how much heart did the Giants look like they had at the end of the game against the Saints, when Alvin Kamara took off on a 49-yard run that put the game away? How much passion did the Giants have in Dallas where their offense barely moved all game long? How much energy did they have on opening day, despite playing in front of a crowd that seemed fired up by the chance for a fresh start?
Beckham has done a lot of dumb things in his career, from the on-field fight with Josh Norman to the pre-playoff boat trip in Miami, to punching the wall in Green Bay, to celebrating a touchdown by pretending to pee like a dog, to that video from a bed in Paris with a woman a pizza and what sure looked like drugs, to … well, you get the idea. He is a magnet for attention because he's such a big celebrity, but he's also a master at drawing it to himself, too.
He has gotten plenty of criticism in his career and he has often deserved it.
But not this time. Not even when he questioned either Shurmur's game plan or quarterback Eli Manning -- it wasn't clear which, and Beckham refused to talk to the media on Friday to offer any clarification -- when he said "How come we can't throw the ball for more than 20 yards? How come we don't attempt or try to throw the ball for more than 20 yards?"
How come he gets heat for asking the question everyone's been asking all week?
And how come nobody has an answer for those questions, by the way?
When the Giants made Beckham the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, they were counting on his maturity, they were projecting he'd become a leader. Well, maybe this is a sign that he's doing just that. Part of the beauty of his game is that his talent is matched by his energy and passion and heart and effort and all the things that keep endearing him to the fan base.
So please, let him try to light the same fire under his teammates. Maybe a little bit of Beckham's heart will even rub off.