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Opinion: Odell Beckham Jr. must change to make his fresh start with Rams work

·6 min read
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Will the third time be the charm?

That’s the question hanging over Odell Beckham Jr. after his divorce from the Cleveland Browns and rebound union with the Los Angeles Rams.

One of the leading contenders for NFC supremacy, the Rams on Thursday gave the three-time Pro Bowl receiver another shot at redemption, as the two sides agreed to terms on a one-year deal.

The transaction comes two days after Beckham passed through waivers unclaimed and following a process in which the wideout also drew interest from the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Now, Beckham will try to resurrect his career while the Rams try to parlay another high-profile acquisition into Super Bowl glory.

Thus far, lasting success has eluded Beckham during stops in New York and Cleveland. Fractured relationships and injury woes ended his time with both organizations on sour notes.

The Rams are the closest thing to a legitimate contender that Beckham has ever been apart of.

However, his success in L.A. will hinge largely on his own mindset and approach.

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In this Dec. 22, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is shown before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, in Cleveland.
In this Dec. 22, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is shown before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, in Cleveland.

Despite his frustrations, Beckham – and not Baker Mayfield or Kevin Stefanski – is to blame for the way things ended in Cleveland.

Yes, Stefanski could have done a better job of scheming up ways to get Beckham the ball. And yes, Mayfield is the triggerman. There were certainly times where he hesitated or pump-faked Beckham’s direction and went another direction.

And players can’t always avoid health-related problems no matter how many preventative measures they take.

But the mental and execution aspects of the game have always been 100% in Beckham’s control, and slippage in those categories have led to his downfall.

Early in his career, he ranked among the most dynamic players at his position. He played with a relentless determination that enabled him to beat virtually any coverage, make impossible catches and rack up yards after the catch.

But as recognition turned to fame, Beckham’s opinion of himself ballooned out of control. Drama ensued and ultimately overshadowed on-field production, which has steadily declined.

Now, two teams have decided that dealing with an unhappy Beckham wasn’t worth it.

Beckham no doubt wants to show the world that he wasn’t the problem.

But to do so, he must realize how he fits into the big picture, because whether he likes it or not, as a wide receiver, he’s just that: a piece of the picture, a cog in the wheel – not the picture or the wheel.

But this far, Beckham hasn’t seen himself as such. He has behaved as though things should revolve around him, and he makes the mistake of viewing himself in a similar light to basketball stars.

“I can’t sit here and lie like I don’t want the ball,” Beckham once told reporters. “Like I tell you every time I get up here, they don’t pay James Harden for defense. He’s a shooter, and I feel like I’m a shooter.”

But a wide receiver and a shooting guard are two entirely different things.

Yes, Beckham may possess unique traits that enable him to do some truly spectacular things. However, he should know that in football, outside of the quarterback, everybody is playing a supporting role. Gaining an understanding of this will go a long way toward ensuring both individual and team success.

That doesn’t mean there will not be frustrations. Every wide receiver to ever play the game has believed that he deserves more targets than he gets. Every single one of them has had moments where they’re wide open – or at least think they are – but get overlooked.

But the response makes all of the difference.

A wide receiver who has the ability to sidle up to his quarterback, discuss what he’s seeing and what opportunities he believes they can capitalize on has a much better shot at consistent effectiveness. A wideout who can sit down with his coach and find ways to become more involved in the game plan has a much better chance of attaining long-term success.

But fits on the sideline? Shots fired in news conferences or on social media? Those moves never produce desired results.

Beckham soured on the Browns because he didn’t believe Mayfield and Stefanski catered to him the way they should have. But a greater sense of accountability, improved precision in his route-running and a better grasp on conflict resolution would have better served both him and the team.

Beckham does indeed want to win. That’s why he narrowed his choices to the Rams and Green Bay Packers, per reports, rather than entertaining offers from non-contenders.

But he’ll have to adjust his mindset in LA. because he’s now playing for a coach who religiously preaches a message of “we, not me.”

With the Rams, Beckham will have to accept not being the go-to guy. Sean McVay is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, and he’ll certainly integrate OBJ into the offense. But Matthew Stafford’s top target is Cooper Kupp, who leads the NFL with 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns halfway through the season. And Stafford also has great connections with Robert Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee.

So, Beckham must assimilate into this well-oiled machine. If he is able to do so, this very well could be the best situation for him in both the short and long term.

Following his release, I asked multiple NFL executives – who all responded on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons – on their option of the best possible fit for OBJ.

The popular belief was that Beckham needed to go to a stable franchise that possessed a strong coach and an unquestioned leader at quarterback. Multiple executives also said Beckham needed to go to a team where he wouldn’t even be the leading target.

Such a role would represent a new experience for the wideout, they acknowledged. But given the way injuries have hampered him thus far this season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last year, such a setup would ease pressure on Beckham and perhaps help guard against the volatile nature that he often exhibits.

The Rams check all of those boxes.

They offer Beckham just about everything he could ask for if winning football is indeed what he craves. The bright lights of LA. also likely appeal to Beckham’s attention-seeking side.

But the only way that this will work out is for Beckham to change his mindset. He finally has to realize he’s a talented contributor, but not the center of attention.

If he must, he can still view himself as a shooter. But that shooter had better be a Klay Thompson type.

Otherwise, stop No. 3 will end very similarly to the first two.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Odell Beckham Jr.'s Rams stint will only work if star WR changes