Saquon Barkley has become face of Dave Gettleman’s Giants failures

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — This, of course, is not all Saquon Barkley’s fault. 

Dolphins 20, Giants 9 on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium wasn’t all the fault of the Giants’ fourth-year running back even though he didn’t play a particularly good game. 

The 26 points the Giants offense has been held to in the past three games hasn’t been all Barkley’s fault. 

The fact that the offense has produced 18 touchdowns in 12 games this season isn’t all his fault. 

The 4-8 Giants heading for a fifth consecutive season without a playoff berth hasn’t been all his fault. 

The firing of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett wasn’t all Barkley’s fault, either. Nor is the fact, under the watch of Freddie Kitchens the offense has produced one touchdown in the two games since Garrett was sacked. 

Barkley is only one man in the ultimate team sport. This mess is not all his fault. 

But Barkley does stand as the symbol of the Giants’ shortcomings since he was controversially drafted No. 2 overall in 2018 by general manager Dave Gettleman. 

Since that draft day, Gettleman’s loquaciousness — saying Barkley was “touched by the hand of God’’ and that the Giants “picture this guy putting on a [Hall of Fame] gold jacket” — has aged about as well as a Twitter take gone terribly wrong. 

Giants
Saquon Barkley (right) has become a symbol of Dave Gettleman’s (left) draft shortcomings.
AP, Getty

The problem for Gettleman is that, unlike with a tweet, he cannot delete his very public take. 

Much the way Blair Thomas (like Barkley, a former Penn State running back) was forever tied to the failure of Jets general manager Dick Steinberg after he drafted him No. 3 overall in 1990, Barkley (who’s a far better player than Thomas ever was) and Gettleman are inextricably tied together for the failures of these past four years. 

Maybe the worst thing that happened to Barkley was being drafted where he was, because when you’re drafted second overall, you’re expected to be a generational impact player. The Giants are 19-41 since Barkley was drafted, which means he’s had minimal impact and has not been a generational player. 

Even in Barkley’s rookie season — the best year of his career — when he rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 TDs on 261 carries and caught 91 passes and four more TDs, the Giants finished 5-11. 

On Sunday against the Dolphins, Barkley had little impact, rushing for 55 yards on 11 carries and catching six passes for 19 yards. 

Worse yet, he dropped two passes, the second of which came in a 3-3 game in the second quarter on a play where he had a step on Miami linebacker Elandon Roberts on a slant with a lot of open real estate in front of him. If he catches that pass, it’s going for 20 or more yards and well into Miami territory. 

Instead, three plays after that drop the Giants punted and the Dolphins used that possession to take a 10-3 lead into halftime. 

“Yeah, it touched my hands,’’ Barkley said of the drop. “It could’ve been a big play. I failed. I didn’t make the play.’’ 

Barkley, as he spoke to reporters after the game, looked equal parts livid and sick to his stomach. His answers were delivered through clenched teeth as he furiously worked over a piece of gum and looked like he couldn’t wait to flee the room. 

Giants
Saquon Barkley walks off the field after the Giants’ 20-9 loss to the Dolphins.
AP

When a reporter began a question with, “Some people say you don’t have it anymore,’’ Barkley bristled and said, “That’s their opinion.” 

Asked why he thinks he “still’’ has it, Barkley said, “Because I know who I am.” 

The problem with Barkley, a player for whom you root because of the classy way in which he conducts himself, is who he hasn’t been, which is the game-changing player Gettleman sold him to be. 

“I’m not producing in the run game right now … not affecting the game in that aspect,’’ Barkley said. 

As Giants players filed into the locker room in the immediate aftermath of the loss, different players looked to be in differing moods. Some were quiet. Some looked ticked off. Others were laughing and in conversation, seemingly unaffected by an eighth loss in 12 games. 

Barkley, by appearance, seemed to have taken the loss the hardest. 

“You got guys, young guys, with money in their pockets and you can say Saquon has the world at his feet, and he still cares,’’ Giants cornerback Logan Ryan said. “He cares about this game, he cares about winning deeply, he takes responsibility and accountability. When you don’t win games, you want to have people take ownership. You want have people say, ‘Guys, that’s on me.’ I appreciate that about Saquon. [But] it’s not one guy.’’ 

Ryan, of course, is right. It’s not one guy. 

Fair or not, though, the reality is that until the losing turns into winning (if it ever does) Barkley will remain a significant face of this failed era for the Giants.

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