Requiem for Saquon
Despite hailing from the northern New Jersey area, I have always had a propensity for disliking the New York Giants. Be it them spoiling a bet with a friend I made regarding a certain undefeated Patriots team, my firm belief that Eli Manning is an overrated quarterback, or the fact that some of my least-favorite people growing up were also diehard Giants fans. There is a local cult of prestige surrounding this franchise that I never bought into. So, it is with great fanfare that I offer this piece of advice to Saquon Barkley: get out of New York while you still can.
Following an unceremonious end to his third season in a largely-meaningless game against Chicago—set to the backdrop of a meaningless season—the young running back should use his new-found free time to contemplate his future in the league. Even with a torn ACL, Saquon still remains as one of the top running backs in the league, that much is certain. It is because of this that I feel Saquon should do all that he can to force a trade out of New York. It may seem like an over-reaction to suggest, but in the grand scheme of things, it makes perfect sense for such a promising young talent.
First, we need to address the obvious: Saquon is a running back. Regardless of how good he is, the timer is ticking on the prime of his career. According to Doug Driner of Pro Football Reference, the average running back’s career peaked at around age 27-28. While this statistic was created in 2000, it still holds true for running backs in today’s league. We’re currently seeing it play out for Saquon’s cross-town neighbor Le’Veon Bell, who turned 28 in February and is already on injured reserve in the second year of a contract he signed with the Jets after sitting out the entire 2018 season. The point being is that Saquon is already 23 and just lost an entire season of his career due to injury, and he’s due to turn 24 this upcoming February. Of course a big factor in this also is how he recovers, but the average ACL injury can take anywhere from 6-12 months to recover from, and the effects could still linger into next season regardless of where he may end up.
Secondly, we need to address the reality of the Giants as a team: they suck, and they have for a while. Since winning Super Bowl XLVI in 2011, the Giants have accumulated a combined record of 51-77 (.398) while cycling through four head coaches. In that time, they’ve only had two winning seasons and a one playoff appearance, in which they were bounced like a freefalling sky diver in the wild card round by Green Bay. For my Giants faithful, you remember this one right? The infamous trip to Miami taken by Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and a whole host of other players before their big playoff game in the frozen tundra that is Lambeau Field?
The team hasn’t been good for the past decade and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future. As of writing they’re currently 0-2 and Daniel Jones is looking like he spent too much time near Eli Manning if his untimely interceptions are any indication of anything. Not to mention that, as previously mentioned, the Giants are on their fourth head coach since 2011, and while it is still early into his first season, the jury is still out on how a former special teams coordinator will rise up to the task of coaching such a dysfunctional team (I am not optimistic). The defense has been stripped clean and in continuing with the decade-long running gag, the offensive line is terrible, even after shelling out top money to average players like Nate Solder.
Of course we can’t discuss organizational dysfunction without mentioning the albatross himself: David Gettleman. Since taking over as GM in 2018, the Giants are 9-25 and have already cycled through another head coach. As much as I like Saquon, I could never understand why the team felt the need to draft him second overall, especially when you look back and see how they could’ve drafted someone like Nick Chubb early in the second round. At the time, the team needed to draft an heir for Eli, and they could’ve very easily done so with the second overall pick, they didn’t need a running back that early no matter how good he was. It is just one example of some of Mr. Gettleman’s more questionable decisions since taking over as GM, and the sort of erroneous, short-term thinking that has kept the Giants in the cellar. This team appears to be more concerned with trying to re-live the glory days of the 2000s instead of actually building for the future, and if there’s one thing that everyone should know about trying to revive the past, it’s that it never works and you’ll never be satisfied with the outcome.
In some ways, Saquon’s situation reminds me of what Adrian Peterson had to deal with while in Minnesota. Coming from someone who once used to root for the Vikings, they wasted the prime of his career. The Vikings of then are like the Giants of now; a bad team without direction, made relevant only by a great running back who was wasting the best years of his career going nowhere. Honestly, I felt bad for A.P. when his time in Minnesota was finally up. He could no longer command a big contract from a contending team and was relegated to playing for mercenary deals in places like Washington and Detroit. Remember, he suffered a pretty serious ACL/MCL tear in the twilight of the 2011 season, but he came back in 2012 by nearly breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. That year, he earned awards for Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player, and if not for Peyton Manning he would’ve easily won Comeback Player of the Year as well.
An ACL injury can be a potential deathblow to any player in the NFL, especially for a running back. But Saquon has proven himself to be unlike other backs in the league, and I have full confidence that he will come back in 2021 with something to prove, not to us, but to himself. The next two years may prove to be rather painful for Saquon, but if he cares about the trajectory of his career, then he needs to get out of New York. Maybe he’ll stick around for the final year of his rookie deal to prove that he’s still a capable back, but by then he’ll be 25 and coming off of an ACL tear. If we are to use Driner’s system reference, then Saquon’s prime will not last for much longer. The clock is ticking for Saquon to escape, and he needs to time it just right if he wants to spend the remainder of his career with a team that will properly utilize his talents and allow him to compete.
(Cover Photo: Matthew Swenson/New York Giants)