WR’s party boat launched dis­as­ter of 2017

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - GARY MY­ERS

It was a hos­tile takeover on New Year’s Night and has brought the Giants to their knees.

The road trav­elled by the Giants tran­si­tion­ing from Eli Man­ning’s team to Odell Beck­ham’s team does not re­quire a GPS. Con­nect the dots from 11-5 to get­ting blown out in the play­offs in Green Bay to win­ning only one game this sea­son … it only re­quires com­mon sense.

The down­ward spi­ral be­gan the mo­ment the wheels went up for Mi­ami for the now-in­fa­mous boat trip and it keeps get­ting worse and worse. Noth­ing good has hap­pened for the Giants since New Year’s Night, which is quickly ap­proach­ing its one-year an­niver­sary.

An hour or so af­ter the Giants beat Wash­ing­ton in Landover, Md., in the fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son game last sea­son, they boarded Am­trak to take them back to Ne­wark. In­stead of go­ing home and rest­ing up on their Mon­day day off for the wild-card game the fol­low­ing Sun­day in Green Bay, Beck­ham called “Road Trip,” only this was not An­i­mal House, this was the best player on a $2 bil­lion foot­ball team set­ting the agenda for a play­off week:

Let’s party and then have to an­swer ques­tions all week about par­ty­ing.

Vic­tor Cruz, Ster­ling Shep­ard and Roger Lewis joined Beck­ham. Be­cause it was al­ready late in the evening by the time they re­turned from the game, they pre­sum­ably went straight to Teter­boro Air­port and boarded a pri­vate jet.

I think the episode rep­re­sents a change in the way the Giants con­duct busi­ness. The play­ers now ruled and Beck­ham be­came the leader. OBJ turned foot­ball into an in­di­vid­ual sport. Okay, Ben McA­doo could not dis­ci­pline him even if he wanted be­cause play­ers can do what they want on an off day, play­off prepa­ra­tion be damned. But McA­doo wouldn’t even crit­i­cize his star’s screwed up pri­or­i­ties.

It was a strong sig­nal that the Giants were now play­ing by the Beck­ham Rules and an­ar­chy and dys­func­tion has ex­isted in the last 10 1/2 months. In­stead of Man­ning be­ing the role model for the young play­ers in the locker room, the Mil­len­ni­als now looked to OBJ the rock star.

The Giants’ hands-off ap­proach with Beck­ham — they thought it was a given he knew you can’t act like a dog and pre­tend to pee on the field — in­fected the locker room and en­abled oth­ers to see how much they can get away with. It has con­trib­uted to the 1-8 sea­son. Con­sider all that has gone wrong since Beck­ham & Co. re­turned from the high seas:

They got blown out 38-13 seven days later at Lam­beau Field. Beck­ham dropped a third-down pass on the first se­ries and a touch­down on the sec­ond se­ries. He put so much pres­sure on him­self to over­come the boat trip me­dia crit­i­cism that he played the worst game of his life. Aaron Rodgers threw for 362 yards against what had been an air-tight sec­ondary. At the time, it was writ­ten off be­cause it was Rodgers. In truth, he ex­posed an over­rated group.

Beck­ham was a no-show for all of the OTAs in what ap­par­ently was meant to send a mes­sage that he wanted a new con­tract. Two days be­fore re­port­ing to train­ing camp, he said he wanted to be the high­est paid player in the NFL.

Beck­ham suf­fered a high an­kle sprain in the sec­ond pre­sea­son game in Cleve­land on Aug. 21, missed the first reg­u­larsea­son game in Dal­las, re­turned the sec­ond week vs. Detroit and suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing bro­ken an­kle against the Charg­ers that re­quired surgery in his fourth game back. Bran­don Mar­shall also suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing an­kle in­jury in that game.

The Giants have tied their worst start since 1980. If they lose to the Chiefs on Sun­day, it will be their worst record af­ter 10 games since they were 1-9 in 1976 af­ter open­ing the sea­son with nine straight losses.

Janoris Jenk­ins and Dom­inque Rodgers-Cro­mar­tie, each high-priced free agents, were sus­pended one game each for break­ing team rules.

Ja­son Pierre-Paul has re­warded the faith the Giants showed in him (four-year, $62 mil­lion con­tract) with just 4.5 sacks, three of them in the only vic­tory in Den­ver af­ter an 0-5 start. Olivier Ver­non, who signed a five-year, $85 mil­lion free agent con­tract last year, had never missed a game in his first five sea­sons, re­turned last week af­ter miss­ing four games with an an­kle in­jury, which is the in­jury of the year for the Giants. He has just two sacks.

Man­ning has be­come the worst quar­ter­back in the NFC East. Maybe he’s just not good any­more. Or maybe play­ing be­hind a fear-in­duc­ing of­fen­sive line and hav­ing no run­ning game has made him look like an old bro­ken-down QB.

Foot­ball is a game of fol­low the leader. The best teams have coaches and quar­ter­backs who set the tone. Tom Brady is 40, nearly dou­ble the age of his younger team­mates, but he is still the heart­beat of the locker room. There has not been one player in Brady’s 17 years as the Pa­tri­ots starter who has been a big enough per­son­al­ity to cause a seis­mic shift in the locker room order. Not even Randy Moss.

Ex­cept for self-pro­moter Tiki Bar­ber, who re­tired af­ter Man­ning’s third sea­son, and larger-than-life per­son­al­ity Michael Stra­han, who re­tired af­ter Man­ning’s fourth sea­son and first Su­per Bowl, the locker room has be­longed to Man­ning.

He was sur­rounded by strong per­son­al­i­ties over the years in ad­di­tion to Bar­ber and Stra­han — An­to­nio Pierce, Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Bur­ress — but he pretty much had the place to him­self. His team­mates were in­spired by his first-in, last-out ap­proach to study­ing and never wanted to dis­ap­point him. He set the agenda for many years … un­til OBJ.

When Beck­ham ar­rived in 2014, he fol­lowed Cruz ev­ery­where. By 2016, with Beck­ham’s over­sized per­son­al­ity and con­nec­tions in the en­ter­tain­ment world mak­ing him a cult hero in the locker room, Cruz started fol­low­ing him around.

Man­ning re­turned from the Wash­ing­ton game and im­me­di­ately started to study the Pack­ers. Beck­ham led his crew to an all-nighter with Justin Bieber and onto the boat the next day.

Noth­ing has been the same around the Giants ever since, even with Beck­ham on in­jured re­serve.

It all goes back to the Boat Trip. Or maybe I’m wrong and it’s re­ally McA­doo’s slicked-back hair.

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