Lost in the very public dress down of Odell Beckham, Jr. and his antics against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, were the effects of very real and not-so-flattering deeds committed by Josh Norman and his teammates on Sunday. For his part, Beckham continues to be ridiculed by sports media, the general public and even fans of the New York Football Giants for his on-field conduct that played out over a large portion of the Panthers – Giants contest at MetLife Stadium.
As the New York Giants website pointed out on Dec. 21, the dynamic wide receiver one game suspension in a letter he received from NFL vice president of football operations Merton Hanks. In the letter Hanks noted, “At numerous times during yesterday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, your actions placed a fellow player at unnecessary risk…and clearly did not represent the high standards of sportsmanship expected.”
Unfortunately, the NFL will get this wrong again as well, not because Beckham does not deserve a suspension, actually Beckham deserved to be ejected, but because the league handed out retro-active punishment and that becomes a slippery slope. Pittsburgh Steelers’ center Cody Wallace committed the same violation that Beckham did on Sunday, but apparently he will not be suspended. And if the argument is that it was a compilation of events on Sunday that gets Beckham his one-game ban, then the league needs to banish the entire officiating crew for their multiple transgressions as well.
The NFL under Roger Goodell has become a make it up as-we-go-along endeavor, part lap dog to owners, part spin doctors, part fat cats, but always looking out for their deep pockets.
As far as the Beckham suspension, no one can dispute the contents of the letter, but the Giants’ wide receiver has exercised his right to appeal. For the naysayers, understand this, Tom Brady and Greg Hardy exercised the right of appeal, certainly Beckham should expect nothing less from the process. It is not about the people we like, and the people we do not like, it is about fairness and consistency.
So whether or not you agree with the Beckham suspension becomes irrelevant, unless this commissioner decides to rewrite history a la the Ray Rice situation. In the knee jerk world of the NFL, one cannot take anything for granted though, so maybe Goodell goes for second bite of the apple. Equally unfortunate are the reactions of Carolina Panthers’ faithful, Josh Norman, Ron Rivera, and the NFL offices, who think that denoting Beckham as the scapegoat of this ugly saga makes it go away, with the Panthers holding the high ground.
It won’t and they don’t.
Beckham’s action have been vetted and punishment meted out, so the time has arrived to uncover aforementioned Josh Norman. As the talking heads were crowning him the world’s greatest cornerback this season, Norman pushed the envelope, and he pushed and pushed, until he came across Beckham. Beckham decided to push back, but unfortunately he did not do so within the rules of the game.
For those looking for a scapegoat, consider this, according to Pro Football Focus, Norman played 76 of 76 defensive snaps, so whatever criticism lobbed at Tom Coughlin should also be lobbed at Ron Rivera. The world’s greatest cornerback received a (-5.9) grade on the afternoon, once again according to Pro Football Focus. It was the worst afternoon of the season for Norman. Ironically, Beckham dropped a sure touchdown against Norman in the first quarter or Norman’s numbers would have been worse!
Realistically, the world’s greatest cornerback was beaten for potential TDs twice by the out of control receiver. In the Panthers’ own words, “film don’t lie”, so the Panthers might want to take a look at the film from Sunday.
Congratulations to the Panthers to making it to 14-0, but giving up a 28-point lead to a below .500 team hardly stamps your ticket to Super Bowl 50, in fact it raises more questions about how you got to where you are.
As Scott Fowler in the Charlotte Observer stated, “Norman wasn’t blameless Sunday. Much like former Panthers receiver Steve Smith, Norman thrives on conflict and perceived slights. I’m sure Norman and some of the Panthers’ other defensive backs trash-talked with Beckham Sunday, because the next time Norman goes a day without trash-talking will be the next time he contracts severe laryngitis. And Norman drew two personal-foul penalties himself (compared with Beckham’s three, which really should have been about six).”
So the idea that Norman was some type of innocent bystander to an out of control Beckham is inaccurate and dangerous. Maybe this wolf in sheep’s clothing has pulled the wool over many people’s eyes this season, so it is natural for the team to accentuate its Eddie Haskell routine each week to an all too willing media. Even in the inglorious nature of the events on Sunday, the obnoxious cornerback boasted, “‘I pulled back the mask’ on Odell Beckham Jr.” A statement that deserved follow-up and got none from NFL beat writers.
Me and I appear to be the two favorite words in Josh Norman’s vocabulary. And with his words, Norman gave a view into what his primary objective was on Sunday, and it was not winning the game. The shenanigans also exposed the Panthers as a bunch of bat brandishing pretenders. Funny that while folks continue to pile on Beckham for being a selfish, me-first player, there was an awful lot of effort expended Sunday by one Cam Newton celebrating everything Cam Newton.
Even the handing out of footballs has become a contrived event to demonstrate how superior the Panthers are than their opponents. We give out free footballs, what do you do?
But we digress.
Perhaps the mask that was pulled back was of a cornerback, who has lapped up so much praise, that he has forgotten his own humanity. The truth is that Norman started the events on Sunday that Beckham took to another level. And not having enough wisdom to leave well enough alone, Norman whined to the media, like a playground bully running to his teacher after getting taken down a few pegs during recess.
What remains to be seen is if the mask that was pulled back exposed a bunch of players insecure in their success, who are not ready for the prime time of the NFL playoffs and who will wilt under the intense spotlight that January football brings. If Sunday’s test was any indication, the Carolina Panthers have plenty of catching up to do.