Why the Pro Bowl will help Odell Beckham Jr.

Everyone seems to be gearing up for another year where we ignore the Pro Bowl and laugh about the fact that it is even being played.

The running joke this year is the number of declined invitations leading to replacements, as we now have 33 new players participating. The quarterback pool includes Tyrod Taylor, who only threw for 20 touchdowns and 3,000 yards, Teddy Bridgewater, who had 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Jameis Winston and Derek Carr, who each turned the ball over 21 times this season. Needless to say, these guys wouldn’t make it most other years.

Odell_Beckham_Jr.
Beckham is playing in his second Pro Bowl in just his second season out of LSU.

So yes, the game itself will likely lack a little bit of the proven star-power we usually see. However, there is still a lot of value in this game being played. Most of it this year goes to the New York Giants.

As we saw this season, the Giants’ number one wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., continued his meteoric rise to stardom. Beckham has quickly become a fan favorite for Big Blue. He also showed us another example of why becoming a star so quickly can be dangerous.

Beckham earned himself a one-game suspension this season for his actions on the field against the Carolina Panthers. That game was talked up as a huge match up between Beckham and Panther corner Josh Norman.

Beckham let his temper get the best of him and was lucky not to be thrown out of the game. He cost his team valuable yards on multiple occasions for penalties called against him in what ended up being a very close game. His absence in the team’s ensuing trip to Minnesota was also felt in a 49-17 drubbing against the Vikings.

It became clear to everyone that Beckham’s early fame had gone to his head. He had become a prima donna, similar to Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. We saw what happened to those guys, who will always be remembered more for their attitude than their talent. I really think that Beckham would have continued down that path if it was not for the Pro Bowl this weekend.

No, I don’t think Beckham will learn anything physical or show great signs of route running development. I think he is going to get something he desperately needs. And that is a mentor.

Beckham is one of the two team captains for his Pro Bowl squad. That team is being coached by Jerry Rice, who is hands down the greatest receiver to ever play the game of football. In addition to that, Rice is also a great role model. He was never in the media for the wrong meetings. He was certainly a public figure and sometimes flashy, but he kept himself in check. He learned to share the spotlight with Joe Montana and Steve Young as well.

Odell Beckham Jr.
If Beckham straightens out his attitude, we can all enjoy these types of catches a little bit more.

That is exactly what Beckham needs to learn to do and there is no one better in the world for him to learn from. Rice not only handled his fame, he embraced it in a way that made him an icon and a lovable player. I’m not saying that Beckham needs for everyone one to love him, but he needs to get his attitude in check and make sure he is not a distraction to his team. Continuing to garner negative attention, like he did towards the end of the regular season this year, hurts your team, no matter how talented of a player you are. When you happen to be the star of the team, that just compounds the issue.

 

Rice came to practice every day ready to work and had that drive to be the best. So often we see young players rest on their laurels and bask in the glory of early career success, only to have it backfire. I have a good feeling that Rice is working on putting this kid on the right path.

We will have to see if Rice is able to instill these leadership qualities in Beckham. It seems like that he is off to a good start though.

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Top five most successful sports cities

As a continuation from yesterday’s piece, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the last 15 years of sports champions. More specifically, I am ranking the top ten sports cities in the US since 2000. This includes the five largest sports leagues in America, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. The rankings will mainly rely on championships won by a single city but I will also take into account appearances in the finals as well. Let’s see if your city cracked the top five.

#5 Chicago: 3 total titles in 6 total appearances
Chicago actually has fewer titles than San Antonio but gets the nod for the extra finals appearance and diversity across more than one sport. Chicago is home to the two-time finalist Fire of the MLS in 2000 and 2003. The Bears also claim the Windy City as home. Even though this NFL team hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1985, they did make it to 2007 Super Bowl. Despite the Cubs century long struggle to win the World Series, the White Sox claimed a title in 2005. The other two titles came from the NHL side. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013. Chicago has seen championship berths from the spread out across these 15 years. The Bulls, despite all the success in the 90s, have not made it to the finals since the turn of the century.

#4 Miami: 4 total titles in 6 total appearances
Florida’s major city clocks in at number four largely due to the success of the Miami Heat during this decade. The Heat made it to a NBA-record four straight NBA Finals, winning the middle two. The Heat also locked up a championship back in 2006 as well over the Dallas Mavericks. So yes, most of the credit goes to the NBA team but the baseball team based in Miami has a World Series title as well. The Marlins, who back then were only the Florida Marlins but still played in the city, won the 2003 World Series over the New York Yankees. The titles from two different sports gives Miami a boost. Now if only the Dolphins could help the city out. Soccer could be springing up as well soon as David Beckham seeks to set up a MLS expansion team. For now though, Miami is nowhere close to jumping over the top three cities on the list.

#3 Tri-State: 6 total titles in 15 total appearances
This seems like it is cheating a little bit but it is hard to differentiate New York and New Jersey. Despite being called the New York Giants, Jets and Red Bulls, all of these teams play in New Jersey, along with the Devils. Either way, The Giants locked up two Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2012. The Red Bulls made a Cup run in 2008, falling short to Columbus. The Yankees won two World Series titles in 2000 and 2009, the 2000 one over the cross-town rival Mets. The Yanks also made the 2001 and 2003 Series. On the ice, the Devils have two Stanley Cups from runs in 2000 and 2003 to go along with losses in the 2001 and 2012 final. Even the Nets, who back then played in Jersey, made consecutive title appearances in 2002 and 2003. Worth noting, New Jersey based teams have accounted for 4 titles in 9 appearances while New York teams only have 2 championships in 6 showings. Looks like Jersey is holding up their end of the deal…

#2 Boston: 9 total titles in 18 total appearances
You know a city is dominant when they have more finals appearances than there are years in our criteria. Boston’s 18 championship runs is one less than the number one team on this list. The cities 9 titles are incredible though. The largest contributor has been the Patriots, with Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2015 and losses in 2008 and 2012. The Red Sox have held up their end of the bargain as well, delivering 3 World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and 2013. The Celtics and Bruins even locked up a title each in 2008 and 2011 respectively. The little known fact is that Revolution actually have contributed the second most title appearances, with five. The issue is that they have come up short every time in the MLS Final. Still Boston’s titles are very impressive. They just couldn’t edge out number one.

#1 Los Angeles: 14 total titles in 19 total appearances
Wow. 14 titles in 15 years. It’s no wonder stars love going to Los Angeles. With teams in every one of the sports being considered but football, LA probably solid chances of succeeding but still 13 championships in 15 years in unprecedented. The LA Galaxy have brought home 5 MLS Cups in 7 attempts in 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014. The Lakers have the same numbers with their titles coming in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. The Kings have been stellar of late, nabbing two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. The Anaheim Ducks grabbed a trophy on the ice in 2007. The Anaheim Angeles added a World Series title in 2002 as well. When one city has three different teams winning titles in a single year (2002), there is really no discussion. This city has truly become Titletown since the year of 2000.

Disagree with the list, tell me who you think should have been included and who should have missed the cut.

Top five most devestating Super Bowl losses

Last night’s game was exciting and captivating until the very end. If you sat through it all you were even treated to an on field brawl with some punches thrown. The Seahawks had every right to be emotional though. They came one yard from clinching their second consecutive Super Bowl title when Russell Wilson had his pass intercepted by cornerback Malcom Butler. It was one of the most gut wrenching ends to a game ever. Here are the top five most devastating Super Bowl losses of all time.

#5 Super Bowl XXIII 49ers 20 Bengals 16
This is one of the most famous Super Bowls of all time. Joe Montana was a class act throughout his career but this game solidified his nickname “Joe Cool”. With just over three minutes left in the game, down by three. Montana led his team 92 yards, picking apart the Bengals defense on the final drive. He hit wide receiver John Taylor in the endzone with just 34 seconds remaining on the clock. The Bengals could not believe that they came that close. This last minute decision left Cincinnati quarterback to famous say, “I guess I’m not going to Disney.” The folks from Disney, who were waiting for the game to end to film their annual commercial, left Esiason immediately in pursuit of Montana following the game. The Bengals saw their first Lombardi trophy stolen from then as Montana walked away with his third ring.

#4 Super Bowl XXV Giants 20 Bills 19
This game was a thriller until the very end. New York played this game with its back up quarterback due to Phill Simms’ season ending injury at the end of the regular season. The Giants had the odds stacked against them. The Bills led early in the game 12-3 and looked in control. The Giants eventually look a 17-12 lead before a Thurman Thomas run gave Buffalo stole it back for Buffalo. The Giants ate up the majority of the clock in the fourth quarter, driving 74 yards on 14 plays. New York came up three yards short though and had to settle for a field goal making the score 20-19. The Bills drove 61 yards in the closing seconds to set up a 47-yard field goal. Scott Norwood famously missed the game-winning try wide right and the Giants won their second Super Bowl in franchise history

#3 Super Bowl XLII Giants 17 Patriots 14

What makes this game so heartbreaking is what was on the line for the Patriots. New England entered the game undefeated looking to become the first team in history to finish the season 19-0. The Patriots were also 12-point favorites in the game. No one gave the Giants a prayer of winning this one. And in the end, it took a prayer for New York to win the game. Eli Manning and David Tyree made the most improbable and famous play in Super Bowl history when Tyree pinned the football to his helmet to secure a huge catch with the game on the line. This set up Manning to find Plaxico Burress in the endzone with only 35 second on the clock. The Giants pulled off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history in spectacular fashion.

#2 Super Bowl XLIX Patriots 28 Seahawks 24
This might have been crazy but this is not number one. The Patriots looked all but beaten last night. Seattle had the ball on the one-yard line with less than 30 seconds to play. Rather than hand the ball off, Seattle called a slant to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. Malcom Butler made probably the best defensive play in recent Super Bowl memory picking off Russell Wilson at the goal line. The Patriots ended up completing the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. It is easy to say what if at the end of the big game but this one will have question marks surrounding it forever. The Seahawks were one yard away from a second Super Bowl victory in as many years. They weren’t the first team to end up that way.

#1 Super Bowl XXXIV Rams 23 Titans 16
This game wins simply because of how the last play actually happened. The Titans trailed in this game to the “Greatest Show on Turf” 16-0 in the third quarter. They roared back to tie it at 16 all. Rams’ quarterback Kurt Warner hit Isacc Bruce on a long touchdown to regain the lead. Tennessee got the ball back at their own 12-yard line with only 1:48 remaining in the game. Titans’ quarterback Steve McNair drove his team all the way down to the 10-yard line with only six seconds remaining and no timeouts left. He dropped back and hit Kevin Dyson in stride at around the four. Rams’ linebacker Mike Jones hit Dyson and hung on to his leg. Dyson spun and extended the football but was only able to reach the one-yard line. The Titans came only a yard short of forcing overtime and forever will be remembered for being those three feet short of a chance to win the Super Bowl.

The new Beckham mesmerizing America

In the early 2000s, the United States saw soccer superstar David Beckham leave the English Premier League and venture into Major League Soccer. This spawned a huge uptick in soccer interest across the country. This was the big name player on the world stage choosing the MLS as his new home. Beckham retired some years ago from soccer but there is a new Beckham taking America by storm from East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The world was introduced to Odell Cornelious Beckham Jr. a few weeks ago on Sunday Night Football. The Giants took on the division rival Cowboys at MetLife Stadium that night. Beckham started just his seventh career NFL game in New Jersey and he made a name for himself with just one play. You can hear NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth say in the broadcast that it may have been the greatest catch that he had ever seen. Twitter exploded. ESPN had a field day. Athletes all over the US reacted. Little did we know that it wasn’t even the best we would see of the Giants rookie we would see this year.

The Giants would lose that game to Dallas but no one seemed to care. Beckham had already been producing well. Three weeks before that Cowboys game, against Indianapolis, the LSU product racked up the incredible catch with an 8-catch 156-yard performance. Then against Seattle two weeks before the Dallas game, matched up with one of the best cover corners in the league in Richard Sherman, Beckham registered 7 catches for 108 yards. And in San Francisco, the talented rookie had 6 grabs for 93 more yards. After Beckham’s unreal catch against Dallas he had a solid week against Jacksonville with 7 catches and 90 yards before exploding again for 11 receptions and 130 yards against Tennessee just last week.

Today, Beckham returned to New Jersey to take on rival Washington. He dominated the entire day with 12 grabs for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Odell’s athleticism and massive hands have been too much for defensive backs to handle week in and week out. Beckham has made Eli Manning look like a much better quarterback over the past 9 weeks that he has been playing, coming down with a number of ridiculous jump balls.

The collective body of work has already thrown Beckham into the Pro Bowl conversation with only ten games played. The Offensive Rookie of the Year award will likely go to either the Giants wideout or Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans. Numbers do not fully cover how incredible Beckham has been but they are still impressive. In his very short career, he has racked up 71 catches for 972 yards and 9 touchdowns. That is usually a pretty good rookie season for a lot of rookies. What is even more impressive is that those 71 catches come on just 84 targets. That is an unbelievable ratio, especially when looking at the rest of the league. Before today’s games, Roddy White and Kelvin Benjamin have the same number of catches (59) on 85 and 110 targets respectively. Beckham only had 69 targets.

This kid from LSU is exciting to watch and Giants fans have to be excited for his potential. It is a very small sample size but Beckham has exceled without having a full offseason under his belt. I am not going to say that everyone should expect this same production next season because receivers are often susceptible to that sophomore slump. But Beckham should be a top-5 receiver year in year out if he continues to play like he has this season. You have to wonder too how dangerous this Giants passing attack could be if Victor Cruz was healthy and drawing coverage from Beckham as well. The point is, don’t be surprised when this guy is dominating secondarys over the next couple of years barring injury. Beckham might turn out to be the best of this outstanding rookie wide receiver class. Only time will tell.

The fall of a Giant?

It is no secret that the New York Giants are in free fall right now. Big Blue has dropped seven straight games, including the debacle in Jacksonville on Sunday. At this point, it is fair to start looking to the future as the Giants are guaranteed a losing record this season. They likely will be battling it out with Washington to avoid the bottom spot in the NFC East and New York will almost definitely land a top 10 pick.

A friend of mine recently mentioned to me that he was excited at the prospect for the Giants to have such a high pick. I figured that made sense. Any team with a top 10 pick has a chance to grab an impact player. But my friend stopped me and pointed out that the last top 10 pick the Giants had turned into Eli Manning. That shocked me a bit. Manning was selected a decade ago which meant that the Giants had avoided finishing in the NFL cellar for quite some time now. Eli turned out to be the best pick the Giants have made likely over that decade as well (maybe Odell Beckham Jr. will prove that wrong but for now it’s Eli). Yet, with their team’s recent struggles, Giants fans are beginning to call for drastic changes, including moving on from Manning.

I will say this bluntly: are you kidding me? You want to replace the Ole Miss product that won the Giants two Super Bowls? That just baffles me. Sure, you can’t rest on your laurels too long but honestly, I don’t think Eli is the problem. Jettisoning the best quarterback in franchise history is not a good idea. And yes, Manning is absolutely the best quarterback to ever don a Giants uniform. It may be hard to see sometimes but it is definitely true. I am also considering quarterbacks who played the majority of their career in New York, which rules out Fran Tarkenton and Y.A. Tittle. That leaves Eli’s biggest competition to be Giants legend Phil Simms.

Many Giants fans fondly remember Simms playing days of the 80s and 90s but he comes up short compared to Manning. The two have actually played a nearly identical number of games in the NFL (Eli has played one more), even though Simms played 14 seasons and Manning has only played 10. This is mostly due to Simms’ inability to stay healthy over the course of his career. Manning on the other hand has never missed a start since taking over the starting job as a rookie. That’s definitely a win for Eli over Phil.

Looking at pure passing stats in the regular season, Manning has a better completion percentage (58.8 to 55.4), more passing yards (over 5,000 more) and a better quarterback rating (81.9 to 78.5). Breaking down some of the stats to analyze a little deeper, Manning has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.31) than Simms does (1.26).

Simms does have a better yards per attempt average than Manning does and was sacked nearly twice as much as Eli, which could explain the injuries. Simms also provided a bit more mobility than Manning does now, as Simms rushed for about three times as many yards as Manning has. Simms also has a better record through as the starting quarterback.

Both quarterbacks led their respective Giants teams to the playoffs in five different seasons. Both were equally as inconsistent as well. Outside of their Super Bowl runs, Simms amassed two touchdowns to six interceptions over seven games. Manning has the same numbers but in only three games. On the flip side, Simms won one Super Bowl in 1986 and Eli has two rings with wins in both 2007 and 2011. He is also great when put in clutch situations engineering 31 game winning drives (not including 5 in the playoffs which ranks as the third best mark in NFL history) while Simms only managed 17.

Both quarterbacks were great in their own right but the edge has to go to Eli. Eli has had more success even though Simms clearly had a better supporting cast. The Giants won the Super Bowl in 1990 while Simms was injured. If Simms had been that important to the team’s success there is no way that they could have accomplished that feat without him. Simms was even replaced the following season when backup Jim Hostetler outplayed him for the starting job in training camp.

It is time to give this Manning brother some credit and take him out of the shadow of his older brother. Eli has beaten Tom Brady twice in the Super Bowl while his Peyton has struggled to conquer Brady throughout his career. Eli has Lombardi trophies, two Super Bowl MVP awards and just about every meaningful passing record in Giants history. So don’t go calling to replace him quite yet. This Giants legend-in-the-makings means more to New York than Simms ever did.