Love Him or Hate Him, Odell Beckham Jr. Is the True Face of Today's NFL

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 12, 2019

Cleveland Browns' Odell Beckham poses with his jersey during a news conference Monday, April 1, 2019, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Ron Schwane/Associated Press

This week we saw the two remarkable sides of Odell Beckham Jr., and all I can say is I'm here for it. All of it.

First came what happened on the field. At the end of a workout this week, while just playing around, Beckham launched a football some 70 yards through the air. There are NFL quarterbacks who can't do that.

The moment went viral.

Not long after his Dan Marino-like throw, Beckham appeared at the ESPYs with his blond locks chopped and wearing a front-facing, cargo-sized fanny-pack shirt that was either holding some snacks or a young marsupial. It was, without question, the singularly most ridiculous piece of clothing I've ever seen an NFL player wear.

Maybe Roger Goodell will fine Beckham for this flagrant violation of the NFL clothing clause. (Oh, it looks good on you, though.)

As he has done many times before, over and over, again and again, Beckham caught our attention. And this time amid the July doldrums. He will do it again. Why? Because the NFL star that infatuates more than anyone—whether it is Patrick Mahomes or Andrew Luck or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson or Antonio Brown—is Beckham. By a long shot.

Whether you like it or not, Beckham might be the true face of the league.

Beckham has the skills to capture our imagination while on the field and the brazenness to make us watch everything he does off of it.  

This won't please everyone. There are many who think he's simply about unprovoked asshattery and human kangaroo pouches.

Odell Beckham's unique fashion choice at this year's ESPY Awards created a wave of commentary on social media and in sports media.
Odell Beckham's unique fashion choice at this year's ESPY Awards created a wave of commentary on social media and in sports media.Kevin Winter/Getty Images

But there are those of us who realize what Beckham truly is: an entertainer. Yes, he's an incredible athlete, but Beckham understands he's more than just a football player. He wants to have fun and doesn't care what the league or stuffed-shirt jabronis think. Beckham is going to be himself.

There's a freedom in that attitude we all should embrace.

Beckham lives his life, and we all comment and laugh and judge (or not). The most important point, however, is that he lives his life.

That fact has always bothered some people who want all players to come from the same cookie-cutter design. Yes, sir. No, sir. How high should I jump, sir? Beckham refuses to fit neatly into a box.

That openness appeared to bother the Giants, and it's easy to believe that's why they traded him. Beckham was never really a "me" guy. He was a free guy. And the league has never liked free thinkers. Teams lie to themselves and say Beckham is too wild, but what they really mean is that he's too free.

Teams can think what they want, but there is an objective truth about Beckham: He is one of the game's most spectacular players. Despite playing with a quarterback who is on the downward slope of his career in Eli Manning, Beckham has prospered. He reached 200 career receptions and 4,000 career receiving yards faster than any other player in history.

As much as the Giants bristled about his personality, Beckham also produced at an elite level, registering at least 75 catches and more than 1,000 yards receiving in four of his five seasons in New York.
As much as the Giants bristled about his personality, Beckham also produced at an elite level, registering at least 75 catches and more than 1,000 yards receiving in four of his five seasons in New York.Ben Margot/Associated Press

Now, he'll get to play for an energized Browns franchise with quarterback Baker Mayfield, whose career is on an upward trajectory.

At 26, Beckham may yet have his best years in front of him. No matter if he does or doesn't, he's sure to keep our attention. Some will criticize him, but whether it's what he does on Sunday or what he wears in July, it's a good bet you can't ignore him.

Kangaroo pouches and all.

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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