WASHINGTON — Days before training camp and two months before meeting, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. can’t talk enough about facing Redskins cornerback Josh Norman.
Beckham didn’t like how last year’s meeting ended when Norman then played for the Carolina Panthers. The two engaged in a clash in cleats with Beckham called for two personal fouls.
Beckham wants more than redemption — he seeks revenge. Norman outplayed Beckham and it became personal on the field and the days following. Norman has low keyed the rematches this fall now that the two will meet twice annually as NFL East foes, though admitting it was one reason for signing with Washington as a free agent in April.
Still, Norman is playing the quiet champion’s role while Beckham acts like Clubber Lang seeking a fight with Rocky. Beckham recently said the NFL’s best cornerback is not Norman, but Arizona’s Patrick Peterson. Beckham’s choice is debatable since Norman was an All-Pro last season, but it was clearly intended as an opening blow for the coming Sept. 25 and Jan. 1 meetings.
Birds chirp, but can they fly past an adversary?
Redskins history is filled with personal rivalries. The best may have been Washington coach George Allen, who once offered to fight Dallas coach Tom Landry at midfield for the victory rather than play the game.
Indeed, the Redskins and Cowboys were bitter rivals in the 1970s and ‘80s before free agency turned everyone into NFL players rather than aligning with one team. Players know they might play on several teams over their careers and will know opposing players. It’s not like Redskins pass rusher Diron Talbert openly talking of ringing Dallas Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach’s bell in the ‘70s.
While Washington fans point to Dallas their chief rival, many New Yorkers look to Washington. It’s the division’s oldest rivalry that started in 1932 when the then Boston Braves played the Giants before later moving to Washington in 1937.
Don’t think Redskins coach Joe Gibbs looks fondly on his meetings against Giants coach Bill Parcells in the 1980s. The 17-0 loss to New York in the 1986 NFC Championship probably denied Washington a fourth Super Bowl under Gibbs.
And Joe Theismann says there are no hard feelings over Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor ending the passer’s career with a gruesome broken leg in 1985. Nobody’s ever said anything about forgiveness, though. Certainly not Washington fans.
In 1966, still smarting two years after being traded to Washington after a legendary career in New York, Redskins linebacker Sam Huff called a last-second time out. Washington led 69-41, but Huff even now says with a straight face that the kicker needed work.
Indeed, Redskins fans are still fuming over Giants owner John Mara leading a league-imposed $36 million salary cap sanction against Washington in 2012. Mara used his league influence to brow beat other owners into sanctioning division rivals Washington and Dallas over supposed improper salary cap violations. After Washington beat New York 17-16 later that season, Washington owner Dan Snyder headed to the locker room yelling, “I hate those [bleeps].”
Yes, it gets personal.
The Giants won the next five meetings until the Redskins emerged 20-14 late last season to fuel a playoff run. Overall, New York leads the series 98-66-4.
But the past won’t matter this time with a new rivalry twist. Beckham is looking to beat Norman.
Good luck with that.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.