CLEVELAND — Nearly since the moment the Cleveland Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr. there have been trade rumors. Media outlets across the country said that teams were going to trade for the star wide receiver and, even locally, a prominent narrative was Beckham’s apparent unhappiness in Cleveland. Fans flooded social media with demands that he be traded.
But after Beckham’s performance on Sunday, that needs to come to an end.
When the Browns traded for Beckham, most fans were overwhelmed with excitement. Another elite receiver coming to Cleveland following Jarvis Landry, providing another offensive weapon for Baker Mayfield coming off a stunning rookie performance. It sounded like a dream come true. It didn’t exactly go as planned.
The three-time Pro Bowler didn’t have a horrible season for a typical wide receiver last year, but Beckham is no typical receiver. A season with 1,035 yards and four touchdowns is good, but fans, and Beckham himself, expected more.
We found out at the end of last season that Beckham had played through a sports hernia that required surgery during the offseason. That wasn’t enough to stop the criticism for his lackluster first season in Cleveland.
Armchair critics said he wasn’t the same player we saw in New York. They said he was a locker room distraction. They called him a diva and said he wasn’t a team player.
But they were wrong.
Who OBJ really is
Beckham is a star. He’s flashy and outspoken and all eyes are on him no matter what he does. But if you don’t read into false narratives, you’ll see Beckham is a team player who just wants to win and help his team any way he can.
When asked about how satisfying big plays are for him to go back and watch, Beckham simply said, “Just doing my job.”
Beckham obviously enjoys being a productive offensive weapon, but rather than worry about his yards or receptions, he has been vocal about what his goals are this season, understanding the offense is centered around the run game with the backfield duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
“I said it last year, and I will say it again this year, the goal is going to be for Chubb to be the No. 1 rusher in the league,” Beckham said last week. "Our game plan is going to be what our game plan is. Whatever that is, the goal is always going to be to win.”
Beckham has shown growth and maturity in Cleveland, reshaping his goals as an individual to better complement his team as a whole.
“For me, one of my biggest growths has come in acceptance in a sense and for me knowing it is probably not going to be that kind of season. Like I always say, my goal is always going to be my goal, and I do not feel like I am ever going to fall short of it. Like I said, learning and acceptance so you set new goals,” Beckham said in September. “You have two legitimate No. 1 backs in the backfield, and our team is very, very, very good at running the football so you have to play to your strengths.
"Then I think you learn where you fit in and where you are able to make your plays and how you can help the team. I tell Chubb every day, ‘I owe you. I owe you. I owe you.’ I want that big block that springs him free just to see him running down the field, even though he is not going to give me any love after it and he is not going to have much emotion about it. Just to see him running free and down the sideline is going to be a great feeling.
"I think a lot of my growth came in acceptance, acceptance of life and acceptance of things and just knowing that is what it is going to be and finding a way to create that block that springs him or whatever it is to help us win.”
Beckham wants to win. He wants his team to win. He’s said it before, and he’s showing it now.
Success under Stefanski
On Sunday, Beckham had an explosive outing. He was the Browns' top receiver with five receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns, and the team's second-leading rusher. Yes, rusher.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has done something his predecessor Freddie Kitchens couldn’t—he’s figured out how to utilize Beckham in a way that keeps the offense running efficiently.
Stefanski drew up unique creative plays involving Beckham that sparked the offense at the most crucial times.
The trick play at the start of the game with wide receiver Jarvis Landry in at quarterback got Beckham in the mix early and did it dynamically. Landry’s 37-yard scoring pass to Beckham, which just so happened to be Beckham’s 50th career touchdown, put the Browns on the board first.
Stefanski and Mayfield made sure to create red zone opportunities for Beckham Sunday, something many fans wanted to see more of last year. Beckham scored his second touchdown of the game Sunday on a four-yard pass into the end zone.
Beckham wasn’t just a passing threat on Sunday, he also provided strength to the run game, keeping true to his word that he would do “whatever it is to help us win.”
An end-around to Beckham on third-and-goal pushed the Browns down the field 23 yards in a drive that ended in that second touchdown Beckham scored Sunday.
But perhaps the most important play of the game, the play that proves Beckham’s pure talent, came in the fourth quarter after the Browns had given up much of their lead.
Up by just a field goal with just over three minutes left in the game, the Browns were hoping to seal the win, and Beckham made sure that happened with a 50-yard run for a touchdown. Words can not describe the moment, seeing it is the only way to understand the impressiveness of the play.
On Sunday, Beckham reminded the world that he is elite. He showed them the breadth of his talent. He showed them his dedication to his team and his teammates.
“I just want to be able to help. I just want to be able to help in any way I can. I want to be able to be efficient and just help this team find ways to win. That is really what it boils down to. There is something special about being part of a win, being part of the team and helping win," Beckham said after the win over the Cowboys. "That is all my goal ever has been... I just want to be great, so just find ways to help us win.”
I asked Odell Beckham Jr. what it feels like to be able to be used in so many different ways under Stefanski's offense.— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) October 8, 2020
"That's something I would love to continue to do. That's something that for me was always in the game plan, it's just the way that I play football." #Browns pic.twitter.com/taQhDelxrd
So after all this—after everything he’s told us this year, after everything he showed us on Sunday—can you please stop asking the Browns to trade Odell Beckham Jr.?
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.