EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning insisted he hasn't watched Odell Beckham Jr.'s now infamous interview on ESPN, the one with rapper Lil' Wayne sitting by the receiver's side as he offered his quarterback a startling lack of support. And Manning insisted there's a good reason why he hasn't.
"I don't watch Lil' Wayne much," he said.
That right there was the beginning of a classic and perfect Manning reaction to a touchy subject: crack a joke (or at least try), then insist that it's no big deal at all. It probably isn't to him, even though he surely knows that when Beckham was asked if the Giants have a quarterback problem, he began his answer "Um, I don't know."
Manning's response was to insist that he and Beckham are "close," "tight" and "on good terms."
In other words, they're fine. Don't hold your breath waiting for a war of words. Don't expect their relationship to crumble. They can play together and thrive together and if Sunday is any indication they even have a chance to reassert themselves as one of the most dangerous quarterback-receiver tandems in the league.
"I've never had a receiver that doesn't want that ball more, and doesn't want the ball thrown to him down the field and scoring touchdowns," Manning said on Monday. "That's part of handling that. When you get a guy with social media and everything now, the ability you have to reach a crowd and express your opinions about everything on a whim, it can cause more drama. That's just the world we're living in and how you deal with it."
It's a world Beckham lives in more than Manning, and it's the tradeoff the Giants have to accept for his talent after they committed a five-year, $95 million contract to one of the best receivers in the NFL. Beckham set the interview up on his own and did it on his off day. Some in the organization were blindsided when they first heard what he said.
Manning? If he was mad, none of his teammates seemed to notice. And the public certainly wasn't going to find out. Beckham addressed his comments with the team on Saturday night -- possibly at the urging of coach Pat Shurmur -- and spoke privately with Manning afterward.
And that was that. If you expected something more, you haven't paid much attention to the unflappable Manning's career. Besides, the Giants have bigger things to worry about at 1-4 and a game coming up against the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.
If they're going to win, Manning needs Beckham as much as Beckham needs him.
"Coach handled the situation well," Manning said on Monday. "I think Odell, having him address the team and setting the record straight from his point of view, I think that was smart and big by him to get in that situation and kind of own up to what was going on, and just kind of set the record straight so we can just avoid the distractions and just worry about playing football."
That's what good quarterbacks do, even when they have a diva receiver in their huddle. Plenty of quarterbacks have survived and thrived with receivers who can't stop talking or drawing attention to themselves. Tom Brady and Randy Moss went to a Super Bowl together. So did Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens. Manning even did it with Plaxico Burress 11 years ago.
So why can't Manning and Beckham do it, even if Beckham really does have reservations about his quarterback and can't keep them to himself? For proof they can, just look at the Giants' 33-31 loss against Carolina. By game time, Manning knew what Beckham had said and heard his apology (or explanation). Yet he still went out and threw nearly 40 percent of his passes (14 of 38) in Beckham's direction.
And he kept doing it even though Beckham wasn't completely on his game. Beckham dropped a fourth-down pass, couldn't hold on to another in the end zone and misplayed a punt into a touchdown for the Panthers. Yet Manning stuck with Beckham long enough to hook up for 8 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Beckham even took one of Manning's passes and turned it into a 57-yard touchdown pass of his own.
They can be great together even despite this bump in the road because they have a coach and quarterback who seem to be able to handle it. The key to dealing with a diva receiver is to diffuse any controversy by not reacting publicly, to not hold a grudge, and to find ways to keep the receiver happy. In this case, Shurmur took the important first step of privately letting Beckham know how angry he was on Friday, and then nudging him into an uncomfortable speech in front of his teammates on Saturday.
Manning perfectly handled the rest.
But when Shurmur told the media on Sunday that he considered the matter "Finito," it really couldn't be until the world got Manning's reaction, which would be really important for his younger teammates to see. What they saw was Manning praising Shurmur for the way he handled things, crediting Beckham for owning up to his mistake and moving on to more important things with his trademark shrug.
"I think that was good just for the whole team to hear (Beckham speak)," Manning said. "When you have new guys and young guys that don't know him or not familiar with him, I think it was good just so other guys aren't talking about it or worried about it, or trying to change how they (prepare) pregame -- we have to get more energy, this or that.
"I think you kind of just end it and just move on, and let's worry about winning a football game."