Column: I dropped the ball, Rams did right thing by signing Odell Beckham Jr.

Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears headphones while warming up before a playoff game against Tampa Bay.
Odell Beckham Jr. was able to block out all the noise and become a great contributor for the Rams.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Super Bowl Week is famous for its insatiable appetites, unabashed gluttony and wolfish overconsumption.

Which would make this a pretty good time to eat my words.

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



Those were the first two paragraphs appearing in this space on Nov. 11, shortly after the Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr.

He has since shown everyone exactly why.

He’s impactful. He’s inspirational. I’m an idiot.

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.

Turns out, when the Rams signed Beckham to a $1.25-million deal, they were looking exactly downfield. Seeing the real Beckham. Throwing straight to him. Winning big with him.

The Rams steam into Super Bowl LVI on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals with the unquestioned knowledge that they would not be here without the man whose signing I ripped to shreds.

Beckham is not Cooper Kupp. But he is Kupp runneth over. Anywhere Kupp can’t be, Beckham will be. Any ball Kupp can’t catch, it’s going to Beckham. His numbers aren’t huge except in the win column. His numbers there are darn near perfect.

During games in which Beckham has been targeted more than five times, the Rams are 5-1. During games in which he has scored a touchdown, the Rams are also 5-1.

He not only has been one of their closers, but also one of their ace starters. In his 11 games, the Rams generally have targeted him by the fifth play of the game. On those initial throws, quarterback Matthew Stafford has connected with him on 10 of 11 passes for 96 yards.

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That’s a hero play. That’s a reachable star. I’m a big dummy.

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 like they were casting “Dancing With The Stars,” seemingly ignoring the trouble he can cause for the buzz he will create.

The trouble has been nonexistent. The buzz has been bountiful. And yes, contrary to conventional belief, Beckham’s still a very good receiver.

In the Rams’ three playoff games he has caught 19 balls for 236 yards and a touchdown. Those are better numbers than he accumulated in his six-game stay this season with the Cleveland Browns.

Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. grabs a touchdown catch behind Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson.
Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. grabs a touchdown catch behind Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson in the NFC wild-card round of the NFL playoffs.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

He caught a four-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring against Arizona in the NFC wild-card playoff game, then later tossed a perfectly looping 40-yarder to Cam Akers that led to the dagger touchdown in a 34-11 victory.

A week later against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Beckham caught two passes for 26 yards on the game’s first drive to help set the tone for a 27-3 lead before the Rams eventually escaped with a 30-27 win.

Then last week in the NFC championship against the San Francisco 49ers, he snagged a 29-yard pass in the Rams’ game-tying field-goal drive in the fourth quarter.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Beckham said after the win.

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He’s not the only one.

He’s not about team, or he would have still 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’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. ...

Suddenly he’ll willingly slip quietly into the background? Really?

Turns out, he’s been all about the team. And during games, he actually has quietly slipped into the background and succeeded for a couple of reasons.

Aaron Donald, Rob Havenstein and Johnny Hekker are the last of the St. Louis Rams playing in L.A. They talk about the team’s return to Los Angeles.

Shortly after his acquisition, the Rams lost Robert Woods for the season to a knee injury, and Beckham immediately became Stafford’s second option.

Also, for the first time in his career, Beckham’s playing a secondary role without the pressure of being a leading man, and he clearly enjoys that.

While Beckham is no longer the kid who made the one-handed catch, at age 29 he’s evolved into a smart receiver who just needs to be in a winning environment, a place where he can be his best self without losing himself.

And make no mistake, he’s still full OBJ.

He has captivated his teammates with his touchdown dances. During one against Jacksonville, he fell to the ground and mimed stabbing himself before rising again. He said it was based on a “Call of Duty’’ video game move and called it a “self-revive,” and isn’t that just perfect?

Then there was the locker room celebration after the win against the Buccaneers, where Beckham deftly lead the dance troupe.

Rams teammates Odell Beckham Jr. (right) and Von Miller share a moment on the sideline.
Odell Beckham Jr. (right) has fit in well with Aaron Donald and the rest of the Rams.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Finally, he capped the NFC championship victory by handing out Super Bowl tickets to the Watts Rams, a youth league team that plays in the heart of the city.

“He’s so smart, so talented, so gifted,” coach Sean McVay said. “And he’s brought such a charisma and a presence, really a swag to our team.”

This presence was clear during Monday’s Super Bowl media day, where Beckham held court for 45 minutes with humility and honesty and insight.

Does he feel satisfaction in proving people wrong?

“I feel like I’ve come so far … I know all the stories and all that … I don’t really take satisfaction because it’s not that deep for me,” he said. “I just know who I am.”

Rams P.A. announcer Sam Lagana will not be on the mic for Super Bowl LVI because the NFL takes over SoFi Stadium, so fans must chant on their own.

He knew he was walking into negativity. He knew it would take too much energy to fight it. He decided to just ride with it and let people judge him for him.

“The perception of me is going to walk into the room before I walk into the room,” Beckham said. “Whatever someone thinks of me … I hope they see me for who I am and not what the world made me to be.”

Who he is now, that’s not who he was. He admitted that he’s messed up, but also acknowledged that he’s learned.

“There’s a lot of moments where I look back as a 29-year-old and reflect, how could I have been better in this situation?” he said.

He’s also aware there probably will be numerous columns like this one written this week, and he reaffirmed that it’s a testimony to a constant personal growth.

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“People who are close to me are like, ‘Bro, it’s just crazy to see how the narratives have changed,’” Beckham said. “I’ve definitely watched, heard and witnessed it all change and it’s just a testimony to staying down, staying humble, stay in your faith, bro.”

Bottom line, in so many ways, Odell Beckham Jr. has become a guy who catches the ball.

I’m the guy who dropped it.

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. ...

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

Yes, they did, and you read it here last.