EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It has been only two months since Odell Beckham Jr. signed his five-year, $95 million contract extension with the Giants that guaranteed him $65 million, and made him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. He had such high hopes for this team and this season back then.
But it's been nothing but misery ever since.
It's hard to know what would've went through Beckham's mind last August if he knew the Giants were about to start selling off assets and try to rebuild. He was asked on Thursday if he would've still signed the contract, but he pointed out that since the Giants could've used the franchise tag on him in each of the next three seasons, it's not like he had much of a choice.
"It's hard to think about that right now, and it's really irrelevant to think about that now because I'm here and I will be here," Beckham said. "I just wish we had a better record than what we have."
No matter what he could've done differently in August, this is Beckham's reality now. The Giants are in a lost season that is more likely than not to get worse. The next few years could be painful too, depending on how they handle the inevitable quarterback change. At this point, it's impossible to say with any certainty when the Giants even expect to be championship contenders again.
Which puts Beckham, as one of the faces of the team and (he hopes) a leader, at a very interesting crossroads. He can feel sad about his fate, complain about it to the press, hint that other teammates are the problem, and become something of a problem himself.
Or he can be part of the solution - a leader, a great player, an agent for the change this organization so desperately needs.
To his credit, at least on Thursday afternoon, he sounded like his choice was to become the one who leads the Giants back - or, at the very least, keeps them from digging any deeper into their current dark hole.
"You just keep going, you keep pushing, and just don't quit," Beckham said. "I don't really know how to quit, so as long as I'm here, I'm always going to care. I'm always going to play football the way I play football. Having it stripped from me, and so many things previously to that, I fell back in love with football and fell back in love with the process. Yeah, sometimes the process is like this. It's ugly. But there will be better days.
"We just got an opportunity to come out the last nine games and make whatever of it. This division isn't doing so hot anyways, so you never know what can happen."
That's a good, positive message - one you'd expect from a leader. It's so much more productive and helpful than saying "I don't know" when asked if the team has a problem at quarterback, or "You'd have to ask him" when asked if he still believes in Eli Manning. Those are the missteps Beckham is going to have to avoid, especially if this rebuilding really does take a couple of years.
Because if you think he's frustrated with Manning now, imagine how he'll be with Kyle Lauletta in December, playing against playoff-bound teams in wintry weather. A year ago this week, Lauletta was leading the Richmond Spiders to a loss at home against Stony Brook -- Stony Brook! - so it's hard to imagine he wouldn't miss a wide-open Beckham occasionally whenever he makes his first appearance in the NFL.
And the same could happen next season, which is shaping up as a transition year for the Giants -- maybe with Lauletta, maybe with another rookie quarterback. All four rookie quarterbacks taken in the Top 10 of this year's draft have struggled at times this season. Sometimes they've blown games all by themselves. It happens to almost all rookie quarterbacks. And yes, it's frustrating for the players on their teams.
But if that's the direction the Giants are headed, if that's their way to a better future, they'll need players like Beckham to show them the way. They'll need maturity, patience, and an ability to hold in all that frustration that builds up.
They'll need him to shrug off the disappointments, just like he did on Thursday when asked about the Giants' ongoing fire sale, and he dismissed it as "the reality of our sport." And they'll need him to be a beacon of hope, not a lightning rod for controversy. They'll need him to avoid divisive comments (or even non-answers), and to focus on the positive - the way he did on Thursday when asked to take the pulse of the Giants' obviously deflated locker room.
"I'd probably have some music going on right now if you weren't in here," he said. "It doesn't feel dead. It sucks to have this record, but it's just another game we lost by three points, another game where we're close. I hate even saying that, because it's not something I'm proud or accepting of, but it's not like we're getting beat by 20-30 points."
Maybe that's not what fans want to hear, but that's what teammates - especially the younger ones - need to hear from a leader.
And that's what the Giants need from Beckham. Maybe he wouldn't have signed up for this if he really had a choice. But here he is, and there's nothing he can do about it now - except to help show the Giants the way out.