But the team owner’s cutting remarks left little doubt about his irritation surrounding the state of his team, his underperforming roster and, more pointedly, his too-talkative receiver, Odell Beckham, Jr.
“I wish he would create the headlines by his play on the field as opposed to what he says and does off the field,” Mara said Tuesday of Beckham, before the start of the annual league fall meetings. “I think he needs to do a little more playing and a little less talking.”
Speaking publicly for the first time since Beckham’s wide-ranging ESPN interview, Mara aired his frustration to reporters for less than five minutes. But while his soundbites were succinct, they were biting nonetheless.
The longtime owner made it clear that he would rather see Beckham focus on being a prolific pass-catcher — not a quote machine.
Asked if he spoke to the Beckham after the interview, Mara quipped: “Which one of his interviews?”
He later added: “I think enough people have spoken to him.”
The Giants are in shambles, barely clinging to relevancy in the biggest media market in the world. And Mara knows it — although he’s far more confident about their chances of improvement.
After spending just over $200 million in recent years to improve their shoddy defense, signing Beckham to a five-year extension that pays him $65 million guaranteed, and reaffirming their trust in the 37-year-old Manning, the Giants are once again scraping the floor of the NFC East standings.
“It’s pretty disappointing. I’m sick about it,” Mara said. “Particularly, the way we’ve disappointed our fans. … I’m still embarrassed being 1-5. I can’t stand up here and make any excuses about that. You are what your record says you are.”
Mara is pissed. And he should be.
His Giants, once the gold standard of NFL stability, are far from removed from their recent Super Bowl success. And unlike the crosstown rival New York Jets, Mara doesn’t have a fresh-faced quarterback looking to take over his franchise. Nor does he have an heir apparent.
“When you’re 1-5, it generally means that everybody needs to play better. So he’s not alone,” he said, referring to Manning. “A lot of guys just need to do their jobs. We still believe in him, but everybody needs to do their jobs in order for us to be successful and right now, that’s not happening.”
Saquon Barkley’s talent was never a question. But as gifted and special as the former Penn State running back is, his maximum effort each week still isn’t enough to single-handedly lift the Giants. But Mara maintained that he doesn’t have buyer’s remorse when it comes to drafting Barkley No. 2 overall, with Sam Darnold (now the Jets’ starting quarterback), Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson still on the board.
“We went best player in the draft, and I still believe he’s the best player in the draft,” Mara said. “ … We took the best player in the draft and I’m thrilled with what he’s accomplished so far and I think the sky is the limit for him. I have no idea what we’re going to do in the draft next year. Let’s wait and see what happens.”
For now, the Giants — at least, their front office — remain fully behind Manning. But Mara can’t stomach mediocrity much longer.
“He’s been our quarterback. He’s still under contract,” the owner said. ” … I know he’s the punching bag right now, but a lot of guys need to play better. When you’re 1-5. It’s not just him.”
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