The verdict is by no means delivered, there are still more chapters to write, but Saquon Barkley missing his third straight game on Monday night in Kansas City was sure to further embolden opponents and the crowd of analysts hammering the table on. the perils of writing a second in the general classification.
While everyone recognizes and marvels at Barkley’s wonderful gifts, you can’t run to Canton to pick up your Gold Jacket if you’ve missed 17 of your team’s last 24 games.
And a Gold Jacket Guy was who and what Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and the entire organization believed Saquon Barkley would be. And still can be.
But he is running out of time.
There is still time for him to be that generational running back… but the nature of the position in such a collision sport has reminded him that it is safer to rely on a franchise quarterback to have an impact on your franchise than on a franchise running back.
Barkley’s return this season after an ACL tear was, more than anything – or anyone – meant to help Daniel Jones take that next step. They are the twin faces of the franchise, and they’ve provided an exciting glimpse into what’s possible in New Orleans.
Daniel Jones, also without wide receiver Kenny Golladay, certainly could have used a healthy Barkley instead of Devontae Booker to keep pace with Patrick Mahomes on Monday night.
There is great irony in the fact that Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey has played three games this season. He played three games last season… he was drafted eighth… by Gettleman when he was general manager of the Panthers in 2017.
The theory that a running back with Barkley’s gifts makes everyone better is only true if you fix and build an offensive line that can open holes for him. The Giants’ offensive lines only served to devalue Barkley. Even still, he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
“Look, he was a fantastic talent,” ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Louis Riddick told The Post. “I understand that people think that the return on investment will never be enough to justify taking such a high running back compared to the risk you take on running back longevity, and it plays a bit of that. way. with Saquon in terms of the injuries he suffered.
“But when you have a special and unique player of Saquon Barkley’s caliber, especially when he was leaving Penn State, he had the ability of Adrian Peterson in terms of how he could affect an organization, Ezekiel Elliott – ability type in terms of how he might affect an organization. Basically he has the ability to gold jacket, and you can’t deny it. I figured it out.… I can’t say that back then I didn’t agree with Dave in terms of taking it, because I didn’t at the time.
With Eli Manning nearing the end, Gettleman passed on Sam Darnold and Josh Allen and Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft to try to make a final inning with the Only A Giant. Then he shifted gears halfway and started to rebuild. Then he drafted Jones as Manning’s successor in 2019.
“Obviously in hindsight,” said Riddick, “when a guy like that gets hurt, it’s easy to be like, ‘You see? That’s why you don’t pick the running backs, because you can find them throughout the draft, blah blah blah and all that. But he was a unique, unique, unique player. Ezekiel Elliott was uninjured and Adrian Peterson had a hell of a career start. Guys like that change the culture, they change the organization. And you don’t do this for every return, to say the least.
“But Saquon weren’t all running backs.”
He’s also all non-Superman running backs. Barkley turns 25 in February. You hope for him that the best is yet to come. May he change the opinion of anyone who rushes to tell you that this is a quarterback-led league, not a runner-led league. Let him not see the first four years of his NFL career as a waste. He helped change the culture. He was unable to change the win-lose record. He learned a painful lesson that the sun doesn’t always shine in the light of day.