Odell Beckham Jr.’s watch is the Cleveland Browns’ least concern

Even with just one week of the NFL season in the books, after a summer of making noise, it’s time for the Cleveland Browns to live up to the hype … or it could be time to fade away towards yet another irrelevant season.

So what time is it? Start by asking the guy with the expensive watch.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s bizarre timepiece saga did a passable job of obscuring the fact that the Browns were miserably poor in their season opener, a 43-13 vanquishing by the Tennessee Titans.

Anything Beckham does is bound to make headlines – especially when it seems he’s on a quest to push the boundaries of the league’s patience, just because he can. And as we gear up for Week 2, all discussion is suddenly centered on what Beckham will have on his wrist, rather than whether Cleveland can get their season on track.

This is not WatchTime magazine (a real thing), but let’s talk timepieces for a metronomically-measured minute here. Beckham’s Richard Mille number, which retailed for somewhere around $190,000 (depending on where you’re shopping), is clearly a beauty, and was seemingly customized with a bright orange strap to pay homage to Beckham’s new employer.

It’s a little strange that the NFL’s rules don’t contain any provision regarding jewelry, merely stating that “hard objects” are prohibited. There are a lot of hard objects on a football field at times: braces, pads, that thumb protector club Clay Matthews once wore … oh, not to mention the helmets donned by every single player.

Beckham claims his watch isn’t a hard object, because it’s made of plastic … which is kind of disappointing for something that costs the same as a family home in much of America. Maybe the $725,000 item by the same manufacturer that tennis star Rafael Nadal wore during his U.S. Open triumph is made of clunkier stuff.

It’s neither the shiniest nor most expensive of Beckham’s offseason purchases, but even he can’t take a custom Rolls-Royce on the field with him.

Beckham said he plans to wear the watch on the field again, as it is a personal item and not an endorsement pitch, and he intends to sport it during Monday night’s clash with the New York Jets. One oddsmaker even priced up a list of which brand of wristwatch he would be wearing when he enters the game. Such things require deep and intense analysis before advice on the matter can possibly be offered … although at first glance, he sounds pretty attached to this one.

“I’ll still be wearing it,” he told reporters this week. “The same way I wear it every day I go to practice, when I go here, I go there, been wearing it. Take a shower with it on. It’s just on me.

“You got to look into the rule book. It says you can’t wear any hard objects. The watch is plastic. People have knee braces on that are hard and made out of metal. You don’t see them taking them off. Everyone has jewelry on. So, I’m good.”

Beckham may have a point, but it is an odd hill to take a stand on. Is all this fuss really about the watch, or just Beckham asserting his own agency?

“The NFL says it will have a conversation with Beckham about the timepiece, which is rather fortunate for Beckham because he can now claim victimhood,” FS1’s Jason Whitlock said on Speak For Yourself. “There is no more exalted status among brand-conscious, attention-obsessed celebrities than victimhood.”

Cleveland sports fans have gotten used to unpredictability and knowing how to roll with the punches, but it’s safe to say this wasn’t the storyline they were hoping would define the early part of the season.

Of course, all this watch hoopla may have served a purpose in obscuring a more unappealing possibility – that the Browns are nowhere near as good as expected.

Towards the end of last season, the Browns went on a morale-boosting run and briefly flirted with making the playoffs, largely because they were able to keep quarterback Baker Mayfield protected from marauding defenders. Yet after giving up no sacks in the final five games of 2018, the Browns line couldn’t stop Mayfield from being on the wrong end of a whopping five sacks last Sunday.

Honestly, it felt like more. Every few minutes, it seemed, the second-year QB was either being hurled to the ground or hurried into a mistake; he ended with three interceptions compared to just one touchdown.

Things don’t figure on getting easier any time soon. On Monday, the Browns will face a New York Jets defense coordinated by Gregg Williams, who spent time as Cleveland interim head coach last season and is intimately familiar with Mayfield and the system. Williams’ defensive M.O. is a blitz-happy format that put real pressure on the Buffalo Bills last weekend and will be eager to push Mayfield to the limit.

A big performance from Beckham would be a godsend to arrest the narrative and stop this from feeling like another Cleveland hard luck story – albeit one with more star power than the city is used to.

Watch or no watch, the Browns need to turn talent into results or else their season, remarkable though it may seem, could already be on borrowed time.