Odell Beckham Jr. Still Deserving of MVP Candidacy

Don’t let one bad playoff game convince you New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t deserve MVP votes.

I voted for Odell Beckham Jr. as NFL MVP.

That looks like a bad decision less than a week after the New York Giants lost their Wild Card Game to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Beckham and some of his New York teammates spent some time on a boat in Miami, a crime that apparently caused them to lose some height or forget how to catch footballs according to some critics. In the aftermath, the electric 24-year-old wideout dropped what should’ve been a touchdown in the first quarter of the postseason contest, and finished the evening with only four catches for 28 yards.

That’s not good.

Think whatever you want about Beckham’s off-the-field actions and life away from football. I can assure you Beckham and other Giants aren’t the only players in history to spend an off-day down in South Beach less than a week before a football game. Moreover, Beckham punching a hole in a locker room wall after losing the first playoff game of his brief career doesn’t bother me one bit. Beckham needs to handle losing better, yes, but that he hates losing makes him that much better a competitor in my eyes.

With all that said, this is not about anything that happened after Week 17 of the regular season. The MVP award allegedly goes to the man deemed to be the most valuable asset to his team from the opening week of the campaign through the final down of Week 17. Quarterbacks earn the honor more often than not these days. QBs are the CEOs of their teams and the faces of franchises, after all.

It was the week before Christmas Day when Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of Yahoo! Sports suggested Beckham deserved consideration for MVP. Heading into the start of Week 16, Beckham, Sulla-Heffinger pointed out, was in the top five in multiple receiving categories, and thus the argument could be made he was the undisputed best player at his position.

Odds are you probably know Beckham caught 101 passes and had 10 touchdowns during the campaign. According to ESPN, Beckham finished the regular season sixth in yards after the catch (524). Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus offered two other pieces of information that showed how important Beckham was to Eli Manning and the New York offense this past fall:

Dan Schneier of 247Sports.com, who referred to Beckham as a “darkhorse MVP candidate” in December, explained that Beckham led the NFL in receiving yards (814) and touchdowns (9) from Weeks 6 to 15.

It’s little coincidence that the Giants found their form as Beckham caught fire. New York’s win over Baltimore back on Oct. 16 started a run during which the Giants won six-straight games and eight of nine contests. Beckham also stood out during the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 22, catching 11 of his 20 targets for 150 yards.

Beckham was more than New York’s best offensive player for a large chunk of the year. He was the team’s offense, and he helped overshadow the harsh reality that Manning had a rough year. The two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP threw only 26 touchdowns—his fewest in three seasons—and he was intercepted 16 times.

One should also examine other parts of the New York offense before dismissing the idea Beckham deserves MVP votes. The Giants were 29th in total rushing after accumulating a paltry 1,412 yards on the ground as a team. New York had only six rushing scores, good for dead last in the league.

Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard impressed in his debut season, finishing the year with eight scores and 65 receptions. It cannot be ignored, however, that Beckham’s presence on the field routinely made life easier for the first-year pro.

New York’s defense improved throughout the year, and safety Landon Collins established himself as a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate. One reason passionate Big Blue supporters are so disappointed the club’s offense couldn’t deliver scores during the opening half-hour of the playoff game at the Packers was because the defense shut Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense down for most of the first half. The Giants had a championship defense as of the morning of Jan. 8.

Let’s not, however, ignore the NFL is a league that rewards pass-happy offenses. From spot-foul pass interference penalties to rules that protect quarterbacks, passing attacks are more important today than ever before. Ask the Denver Broncos if they could go back to last March and convince the shell of Peyton Manning to hang around one more year “just in case.”

The Giants finished the season 11-5, two games behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East standings. Only the Atlanta Falcons matched New York’s record among NFC clubs, meaning the Giants, were at worst third-best in the conference before the start of the playoffs—by record, at least.

Following New York’s win over Dallas on Dec. 11, ESPN Stats & Information provided the following:

The Giants are 5-3 in games in which Beckham has a score of 60 yards or more, including 3-0 this year. Two of the touchdowns this year were game-winners in the fourth quarter of games in which the Giants won by less than four points.

Beckham’s value to the Giants, it turns out, may be a three-game swing in the standings.

Realistically, there’s no chance Beckham wins MVP for the 2016 season. It’s not happening. Tom Brady or Derek Carr or Matt Ryan or some other quarterback will win the award. That’s fine. I voted Beckham for MVP, and nothing that has happened since Jan. 1 makes me regret that decision.

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