EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Pat Shurmur admits he’s approaching this like a coach, not as a member of the front office. The coach’s job is to win as many games as possible, and to do that he wants his best players on the field.
That’s a noble approach, and it’s appreciated by his bosses. But he still can’t lose sight of the fact that Odell Beckham Jr. is currently nursing an injury that has the potential to turn into something worse. The last thing the Giants need is for their star receiver to face another offseason surgery and rehab that keeps him off the field until next summer.
That’s why there’s no need for Beckham to play in the final two meaningless games. The Giants have to shut him down.
“I’m speaking as the coach where we’re doing everything in our power to put a plan together to win the game,” Shurmur said on Wednesday. “That requires that all the players do everything in their power, if they’re injured, to make it back for the game.”
He’s right. He’s speaking as the coach, and using coachspeak to do it. The truth is, it seems increasingly unlikely that Beckham will play again this season. The front office will be involved in that decision, and there is no doubt they’ll move forward after what seemed like an insignificant bruise on his quad turned into a hematoma, as Beckham called it, that has kept him out of the last two games.
The Giants haven’t said much about the injury, but sometimes hematomas have to be drained, and sometimes they’re a symptom of something worse. The Giants obviously have more medical information on the injury than has been revealed. But they were also clearly caught off guard by the seriousness of it, since he was practicing for nearly two weeks after getting hurt on the final play in Philadelphia on Nov. 25. Then, 12 days later at a Friday practice right before the Giants’ game in Washington, his quad suddenly got worse.
Beckham still isn’t practicing fully. In fact he wasn’t even out at practice on Wednesday when it began. And at this point that shouldn’t change. There’s no good reason to push the 26-year-old receiver onto the field with the playoffs out of reach. If he was 100 percent healthy, it would be different. But he’s clearly not.
So why would Shurmur and the Giants take that risk?
“I guess that question leads into that these two games aren’t important – and I don’t believe that,” Shurmur said. “I think what’s important is that we, as a team, do everything we can to go out there and play the game and try to win the game. Running parallel with all the thoughts moving forward in the offseason is this team trying to learn how to win again.”
Shurmur is right in that there is absolutely a value in “learning how to win.” It’s something the Giants clearly forgot between their 3-13 season last year and their 1-7 start this year. There was value in their brief, 4-1 run to the outside edge of the playoff chase. Shurmur’s ability to keep the team focused built confidence and showed them that when they play well, his program and system can work.
It could work even better, though, if Beckham is around all offseason to continue the building process – whether it’s with Eli Manning at quarterback for another year, or with a new quarterback learning the scheme. Last year, Shurmur convinced Beckham to be around during the offseason program, but he was rehabbing his fractured ankle and was limited in what he could do.
Beckham has had an outstanding season – 77 catches in 12 games for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns. But even he knows it’s not up to his usual, explosive standards. And there is no doubt that for most of the season the timing between him and his quarterback has been off.
Who knows if that might have been different if Beckham had been able to focus on football instead of rehab last spring?
So why risk another offseason where an injury is Beckham’s biggest concern? There’s nothing more to be gained. The Giants can learn to win without him.
Then together they can try to actually win with a fully healthy Beckham next year.