PHOENIX – John Mara gave his “reluctant approval” to trade Odell Beckham, Jr. because he believes the transaction will help improve the Giants.
“The way I look at it is, is what we got in return going to make our club better in the long run?” Mara said today. “I think it will if we make the right decisions. It was not easy, that’s why it took this long. It took a long time to come to grips with the fact that we were moving him to another team. I just didn’t think that was going to happen all winter. I think what we are getting in return will make us better if we make the right decisions.”
At a 20-minute joint news conference at the at the annual NFL owners meeting, Mara, the Giants’ president and chief executive officer, and Steve Tisch, the chairman and executive vice president, today made their first public comments since the blockbuster March 13 trade that sent Beckham to the Cleveland Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers and a first and third round draft choice in next month’s NFL Draft.
The owners also detailed their interactions with general manager Dave Gettleman, who consummated the deal after a long day of negotiations with Cleveland general manager John Dorsey.
“My communication to Dave was that, and obviously he knew this, but we aren’t giving him away,” Mara said. “If there is an offer that we all think will improve the team in the long run, then we will consider doing it. … I told him to call Steve first and then he called me back. Even then, I told him that I needed some more time to think about it. I drove home from the office, talked to him on the phone that evening and ultimately approved it.
“I will tell you that it was a reluctant approval on my part because I happen to like Odell very much. I recognize the unique talent that he has. It is not easy to trade that player to another team. I understand also that we have a lot of holes that we need to fill. If we make the right decisions with the first pick and the third pick, we obviously like Jabrill Peppers a lot which filled a need for us. I ultimately gave my 50 percent share of the approval.
Tisch said, “This was not a decision that was made quickly without a lot of thought and a lot of conversation discussing with both Dave and Pat (Shurmur, the head coach) and the impact, what it would mean to the club. It is a tough decision. One of the toughest we have had to make in a long time. Many, many years.”
One factor in the discussions was the five-year, $90 million contract extension the Giants gave to Beckham last summer. But the return the team received for the three-time Pro Bowler outweighed the financial considerations.
“We went into the (2018) season thinking that we were going to keep him long term,” Mara said. “I still felt that up until a few days before we made the trade, that he was going to be a Giant for the 2019 season. Some calls came in and Cleveland got aggressive at the end. It was not an easy decision and certainly not one that was anticipated certainly until a couple of days before the trade was finalized.”
Another issue was Beckham’s sometimes mercurial personality. Beckham at times created headlines with interviews, off-the-field behavior and emotional outbursts during games. But like the contract, those were considerations, but not deciding issues.
“I kept reminding John that over my 45-year (movie) producing career, I dealt with a lot of actors,” Tisch said. “Understanding superstars is a very, very complicated business of its own.
“We had to look at the whole picture and not how bright his light was. He will bring that to the Browns. I think when I was talking about being around actors and celebrities, you understand the complexity of people in the lime light. I think the decision was totally based on a football decision. My personal feelings about Odell are very separate from the decision that ultimately John and I had to make.”
“Honestly, there were times where it (the non-football news) did bother me, yes,” Mara said. “I had conversations with him about it, but it was never to the point where we said to Dave that he had to get rid of him. It never reached that point. Was it a factor in the final decision? Yes, it is a factor. The thing about him though is that it never - he is a good guy. He did good things with us. He was terrific with the Make-A-Wish kids that we brought in each week. It was not like we brought in a guy that was going to be a criminal or anything. There were never those issues. He was someone, there were some extra issues that he brought into the building every day, but it was not to the point where it was unmanageable.”
But perhaps the most important point was that in five years, Beckham became one of the very best receivers in the NFL and one of the finest in the Giants’ long history. He departs with numerous franchise and league records, including most 100-yard games by a Giants receiver (24), and most receiving yards per game (92.8, the second-highest mark in NFL history).
For that reason, and the excitement he brought every time he stepped on the field, Mara and Tisch were asked what it will be like to watch Beckham play for another team.
“Personally, I had a good relationship with Odell,” Tisch said. “I wish him only the best, next 10 years, I hope it is 10 years. Will he finish his career in Cleveland? None of us know. I sincerely wish him a great 2019 season and beyond. He is going to be exciting to watch as he always is. I wish him always the best.”
“It is not going to be easy, I am not going to lie to you,” Mara said. “It won’t be easy. He is a great player and I hope he has a great career with the Browns. It makes it a little bit easier that he is not in our conference. None of this was easy. The toughest call I had to make was to two of my grandsons telling them that we were trading their favorite player. Both of them sobbed uncontrollably on the phone. One of them is speaking to me now and the other is still not sure. I say it half-kiddingly, but it was not an easy decision. I have strong feelings about Odell, too. I thought we had a really good relationship. I am going to miss seeing him around. You can’t let sentiment get in the way. I think, ultimately, if we make the right decisions we will be better off in the long run.”
*Beckham was not the only player Mara was sorry to see leave the Giants. Three-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins signed with the Washington Redskins.
“That hurt me greatly,” Mara said about Collins’ departure. “I liked Landon a lot and I had a great deal of respect for him. He played hard week in and week out. We had many discussions about that. It basically comes down to, just like any other player, putting a value on it. Here was where the numbers were going to end up for him. Do we want to spend it here or do we want to spend it elsewhere? It was a difficult decision but ultimately the numbers that he was going to be able to achieve in free agency was not something we were willing to go. It killed me to see him go. I know he wanted to be a Giant and wanted to be here. He was homegrown. It meant a lot to him. You have to make tough decisions and remove sentiment.
“There were some (Trade) calls last year before the deadline last year about him. I don’t recall the offers being anything that we were willing to consider at that point in time. It was still early enough in the year that we had not completely given up. We wanted to see what happened with him and how he played. He played well, but unfortunately he got hurt. We had not made a decision at that time if he was going to be a part of the future or not. That decision was not made until the franchise (tag) deadline. We just felt that the number that he was going to get in free agency was too rich for us. We didn’t want to franchise him even though he said he would do that I think players are ultimately unhappy when you do that with them. We knew at some point he was going to get the money that he got and it was something we were unwilling to live with.”