BEREA, Ohio — In some parallel football universe, Odell Beckham Jr. owns several diamond-encrusted Super Bowl rings to match fashionably with those dazzling watches he wears.
Once a Giant. Currently a Brown. Beckham longed to be a Patriot.
Talk about fantasy football.
“That was always a dream of mine to play for Tom Brady and (Bill) Belichick,” Cleveland’s star wide receiver said this week as the Browns (2-4) prepared to see how they measure up against the unbeaten and unrivaled Patriots (7-0), the NFL’s gold standard of excellence for nearly two decades.
When Beckham played in New York, there was speculation a few years back that he was going to be traded to the Patriots. It didn’t happen but Beckham would have welcomed the chance to join Brady and Co.
“I was willing and ready to go over there at any point in time,” Beckham said.
Instead the Giants dealt him to Cleveland in March, providing quarterback Baker Mayfield with another potent playmaker and ratcheting up expectations for the Browns.
It wasn’t long after the deal that Beckham said he wanted to transform the Browns into the “new Patriots” by helping them win NFL championships, something Cleveland hasn’t done since 1964.
In Beckham’s eyes, there’s no way like the Patriots’ way. Six Super Bowl titles since 2002 are proof.
“When I said I want to turn this into the Patriots’ organization, it’s about winning, but it’s about the way they go about it,” Beckham said. “How everything is precise and everything is just perfect. It feels good to win, it feels good to succeed and that’s what I meant by wanting to be like them. I don’t know how to be like them because I’ve never been over there. I’ve never experienced any of it.”
Beckham’s admiration begins with Brady, the Pats’ ageless wonder still playing as well as any quarterback at 42. In his 20th season, Brady remains as good – or better – than anyone.
As a way of showing respect for a player he’s admired since he was a kid, Beckham intends to present Brady with a pair of goat-hair cleats Sunday. Goat-hair cleats for the GOAT — the greatest of all time.
“I know we’ve done some goat cloning and I think there’s something going on,” Beckham said, joking about Brady’s impressive longevity. “He’s not human that he’s playing the way he’s still playing. … He’s very smart. He’s the best to ever do it. I don’t think anybody can really argue it. He’s just the greatest and I definitely want some of the water that he’s drinking.”
While Beckham clearly admires Brady and would have enjoyed playing with him, he’s committed to helping Mayfield develop and making the Browns better.
“Tom and I talked for two or three years like, ‘If it happens, it happens and it would be cool,’ ” he said. “But now I’m with somebody who I think is going to be a guy who plays for however long he’s going to play for. Right now it’s about us establishing a connection and being a better team, just coming together.
“We’re a 2-4 team but I don’t think anybody in here feels like it. It’s just time to have a sense of urgency.”
It begins Sunday with a matchup against a team that rarely loses and is nearly unbeatable at home.
Beckham reveres the Patriots. He doesn’t fear them.
“The goal is to win every game, I don’t care who we’re playing,” he said. “We’re not going to the Patriots to play a good game and pat ourselves on the back, and come back to Cleveland and keep working. We’re going down there to win. We’re preparing to win, there’s no way around it.”
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