EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants want the Odell Beckham Jr.-Eli Manning controversy to go away. They need it to go away. John Mara even went public with his anger to try to make it go away.
But there's one problem: Given another chance to put it to rest, to offer his support to his quarterback and teammate, to finally make this madness end, Beckham didn't. Or couldn't. Or wouldn't. He keeps refusing to directly say what he thinks of his quarterback and, perhaps purposely, leaves too much open for interpretation.
And it's not hard to interpret what he doesn't say as this: Manning just isn't the quarterback Beckham wants.
He's welcome to say otherwise, of course, but he hasn't. At least not yet. And that's why this has all been such a big deal since his infamous ESPN interview two weeks ago when he was asked if the Giants had a quarterback problem and he answered "I don't know." To be fair, Beckham has never once ripped Manning publicly. Even in that interview, he discussed some of the reasons why Manning might be struggling, without specifically saying that he is.
But what he hasn't done is say that he believes in Manning, or that he still thinks his embattled quarterback can get the job done. In fact, he was asked specifically if he believes in Manning on Friday, he began his answer with "You've got to ask him."
That answer is pretty telling because it means Beckham either can't answer that question truthfully, or for some reason he won't.
And that's a problem. It seems increasingly clear that the Giants' star receiver has no faith in the franchise quarterback, and won't support him publicly. It's also something the Giants need to fix before 1-5 turns into 1-10, or carries over into next year.
And if you think it won't, remember that Beckham is locked into a lucrative (and untradeable) contract through the 2023 season and the Giants still don't have a replacement for Manning, who just might be their quarterback next year, too.
Maybe they can find a way to thrive together. Again, Beckham hasn't exactly said that they can't. Irreconcilable differences are what everyone perceives, not what he says. That's the interesting thing about how he answers Manning questions. Beckham's words aren't harsh. He tries to spin it as encouragement and as if he's trying to be a leader.
But as he does, he just fans the flames.
For example, when he was asked about recent reports that stated players in the locker room had lost faith in Manning and would welcome a quarterback change, he said "I laugh. I don't think that's the case. I think they're frustrated that we're 1-5 and we're losing. Everybody wants to win. That's really it. I don't think that ever was really the case."
That's good. In fact, it was a really good, very supportive answer. But then he was asked specifically what he thought of the way Manning has played, and how he's handled things this season. It was a perfect opportunity for him to take that softball question and offer praise, support, or anything positive for his embattled quarterback.
Instead, he didn't really answer the question at all.
"I think that we're 1-5 and we need to start winning games," he said. "Everybody needs to pick it up. I need to play better. I can't say that I've had my best games. I can't say that I've done enough to help this team win and I need to do more. Everybody needs to do more. Everybody's got to pick it up. We win games together, we lose them together, there's no other way around it. It's a team sport."
That doesn't tell you what he thinks of Manning, and that pretty obviously was intentional. Just like it was intentional when Beckham was asked the much more to-the-point follow-up question about whether he believed Manning was still the guy who can get the Giants back to their winning ways.
That's when he let that softball go too, by starting his answer with "You've got to ask him."
Now, to be fair again, Beckham did say that he encourages Manning during games because he knows he's done it before.
"I tell him every time we get in the huddle, I say 'Take me home, 10,'" Beckham said, "which to me carries weight because he's been there, he knows how to win, he knows what he's doing, he's the most prepared of anybody I've ever seen. And that's exactly what I say. 'Take me home.'"
That's nice. He knows Manning has a track record, and he hopes he'll come through in the future. But again, it doesn't really answer the question of whether he believes Manning can get the job done now.
If he doesn't, that's fine. You have to respect his honesty - or his unwillingness to say what he really thinks. But that doesn't hide the fact that it's still a problem the Giants are going to have to figure out. Because until they have an alternative at quarterback, Manning and Beckham need to coexist and play nice and support one another, or the rest of this season is going to be even more of a train wreck than it already is and next season could be a disaster, too.
Tom Coughlin used to preach that nothing was more important than "team," that players needed to be supportive and to work to make each other better. It would be much better for the Giants if that happened here.
Until it does, though, we're all left to wonder "What did he mean?" every time Beckham answers-- or doesn't answer -- a question about Manning. And more are coming, because every time he doesn't answer, he's only setting himself up to get asked again.
At least he was honest when asked about his recent need for in-game IV treatments and he said "I don't like water." He still has to drink it, of course. But we now know very clearly where he stands on that.
Where does Beckham stand on Manning? Who can say? Because Beckham still hasn't. And until he does, the unstated truth will hover over this season and this storyline will not go away.