Plaschke: Rams adding divisive, underproductive Odell Beckham Jr. is a bad idea

Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. walks on the field after a game

Three of the most famous initials in sports has joined the Rams, with one slight adjustment required to fit the situation.


The Rams signing of Odell Beckham Jr. on Thursday looks a lot like the other night when Matthew Stafford attempted to fling the football out of the end zone.

They’re wrongly attempting a hero play. They’re foolishly shooting for an unreachable star. They’re not even looking downfield.

OBJ is a legitimate celebrity, a Hollywood star, an internet click machine, that rare football player who fits every stereotype about the cool Los Angeles athlete, right down to the congratulatory tweet from LeBron James.

What he’s not, anymore, is a very good receiver. And what he does, always, is bring drama and distraction.

The Rams don’t need any of those things, yet there they were, picking him up as if they were casting “Dancing With The Stars,” seemingly ignoring the trouble he can cause for the buzz he will create.

This is, actually, very unlike them. The management duo of Kevin Demoff and Les Snead has been nothing but bold and brilliant in their five years since returning to Los Angeles, adding great players who were also great teammates, building a winning culture by bringing in the likes of Matthew Stafford and Jalen Ramsey and recently Von Miller.

“We always say around here that we’re not collecting talent, we’re building a team, and there’s more to a team than just a skillset on a football field,” Snead said during Super Bowl week two years ago.

OBJ is the exact opposite of all that.

He’s not about team, or he still would have been in Cleveland, where he was waived from a scrappy Browns group that is fighting for a playoff spot. OBJ was unhappy that quarterback Baker Mayfield wasn’t throwing him the ball, even though he increasingly had trouble catching it. He was finally cut after his father posted an 11-minute video on social media highlighting moments when Mayfield didn’t pass to his son.

Does that sound like a trademark “We not me” Rams player to you?

He’s not about team, or he might have lasted longer with the New York Giants, where a stellar rookie season in 2014 slowly devolved into daily drama that was highlighted by a Miami boat trip he took with teammates and friends during the week of a 2016-season playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. The Giants were clobbered, Beckham was terrible, and two years later he was traded to the Browns.

Does that sound like a postseason asset to you?

For the record, it has been seven years since OBJ made that great one-handed catch on Monday Night Football, and five years since he made the Pro Bowl.

In his first three years in the league, he was tied for first in receiving touchdowns and third in receiving yards. In his last five years, he is tied for 56th in receiving touchdowns and 41st in receiving yards.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. runs with the ball.

In 29 games with the Browns, he caught passes totaling at least 100 yards just twice. He complained that Mayfield didn’t target him enough but, since 2019, when the quarterback did throw it to him, Mayfield completed just 55% of his passes, ranking the duo 59th among 62 quarterback-receiver pairs.

So now, at age 29, he joins the NFL’s best offense with the most prolific quarterback in Matthew Stafford, the best receiver in Cooper Kupp, the best blocking receiver in Robert Woods, the rising star in Van Jefferson … and suddenly he’ll be willing to slip quietly into the background? Really?

There are those who say there’s little risk in the acquisition, noting that there’s only eight games left in the regular season, the Rams can cut him at any time, and really, how much trouble can one guy cause?

Well, if that were the case, wouldn’t DeSean Jackson still be on the team? He apparently complained about not getting enough targets and was promptly cut loose. On a Sean McVay team, chemistry matters, unselfishness matters, “being where your feet are” matters.

Maybe strong veterans like Aaron Donald can keep OBJ in check. But maybe one divisive personality, even over the course of just two months, can throw those collective feet out of balance.

Meeting with the media after the acquisition Thursday, Stafford fired what seemed to be a warning shot.

“Everybody on our team carves out their role,” he said. “They do a great job of figuring out what that role is going to be and going out there and proving it both on the practice field and in games and given the opportunities, I know he’ll do the same.”

Kupp agreed, saying that the culture has become too strong to collapse under the weight of one headstrong former superstar.

“I think the thing about playing here is when you’re not about what we’re about, when you’re not about playing for the guys next to you, I think you can stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t think anyone wants to be that,” Kupp said. “If you’re not about that, there’s just not going to be a place for you. It’s not going to be comfortable to be here, so being able to have that, I think that calls people up to that standard … and why we’ve had guys come in, and in other places that just hasn’t worked out, come in and be a great teammate, be an incredible football player for us.”

John Johnson III, former Rams safety now with the Browns, isn’t so sure.

“They had a good thing going, like a complete offense,” Johnson told reporters Thursday. “I don’t know, I just feel like, from being in L.A., I know for a fact that offense runs through Cooper Kupp, even in the run game, the pass game, the screen game, it kind of runs through Cooper Kupp. So obviously, Odell’s a big name and he’s going to want that attention as well. It will be interesting.”

The Rams didn’t need interesting. The Rams didn’t need attention. The Rams didn’t need OBJ.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.