Saquon or Sam?
The debate — sports-talk-radio candy — has been raging for months, and it figures to dominate the New York football conversation for years to come, long after the Giants’ 2018 season concludes with Sunday’s season finale against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
There is, of course, the faction of Giants fans who are convinced that selecting running back Saquon Barkley instead of quarterback Sam Darnold with the second pick in last spring’s NFL draft was a franchise-altering mistake.
The decision to draft Barkley one pick before the Jets plucked Darnold has left the Giants in an uncomfortable quandary at quarterback. with many of their fans as confident in 15-year, two-time-Super-Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning as they would be with journeyman Matt Barkley behind center, and certain they’ll never have a crack at another young franchise quarterback.
If you’ve paid any attention to what he’s done this season, that doesn’t make the drafting of Barkley wrong and it doesn’t mean the special 21-year-old from Penn State isn’t going to end up being as valuable to the Giants as Darnold is expected to become to the Jets.
At last check, the Barkley Giants are 5-10 and the Darnold Jets are 4-11.
Here’s a promise: Each of these players is going to help his team win a lot more games than the nine they’ve combined for this season.
“With guys like Saquon, it’s just a matter of time,’’ Giants guard Jamon Brown told The Post Thursday. “It’s not, ‘Can we win?’ It’s, ‘When we win.’ I think it’s only a matter of time for us because of players like Saquon.’’
He’s that gifted and that driven.
“He’s definitely somebody that’s going to be making plays here for a long time and he’s going to win a lot of games here,’’ veteran guard John Greco said. “He’s a superstar, but he doesn’t act like a superstar. Since he came here and throughout the entire season, you see a superstar that’s trying to improve his game, that’s asking questions, that’s never satisfied, that’s hungry and hates losing. You might not believe it, but I think he’s going to get better.’’
The Giants will find a quarterback to succeed Manning — whether it’s after one more season of Eli in 2019 or with a hold-the-fort veteran before they can find and commit to a new young franchise quarterback.
Enough with the Sam-over-Saquon rants, Giants fans. Embrace what you have in Barkley and believe that he’s going to be a big part of your team winning again — as soon as next season.
Where do you start with the remarkable feats Barkley has accomplished this season?
With him becoming the first Giants rookie running back to be voted into the Pro Bowl since Tucker Frederickson in 1965?
With his 1,198 rushing yards, which rank him third in the NFL behind only the Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott and Rams Todd Gurley?
With the fact that he needs 114 yards from scrimmage Sunday to become only the third rookie back in NFL history to amass 2,000 yards from scrimmage, joining Eric Dickerson in 1983 and Edgerrin James in 1981.
With the fact that with two more receptions he’ll eclipse Reggie Bush’s NFL record for most receptions by a rookie running back (88)?
The beauty of Barkley — other than his otherworldly God-given skills and his too-good-to-be-true humility — is that he doesn’t give a damn about any of the above-mentioned records.
“I could care less if I get to 2,000 [yards from scrimmage] or if I get the two receptions [to break Bush’s record],’’ he said. “It would be more special to get a win.’’
Make no mistake: Barkley is proud of his accomplishments, but there always is a bigger picture dominating his mind and it is not about “I’’ or “me,’’ it’s about “we’’ and “us.’’
Barkley has struggled the past two games, with the Titans and Colts loading the box with extra defenders to make sure he didn’t beat them — and he didn’t. He was held to 31 yards on 14 carries by the Titans and 43 yards on 21 carries by the Colts — both in losses. That’ll make Sunday a good test with the Cowboys certain to copy that formula.
Asked if, in a season of such success, he can “accept’’ occasional failures, Barkley said, “I don’t think you ever accept it. It fuels you. You go back, you watch what the defense did to stop you and what you could have done better and you just learn from it. Struggles aren’t hard to accept because I don’t accept them. I just learn from them and get better.’’
Those words should be music to the Giants’ ears amid the cacophony of skeptical noise that has dominated a lot of this season dating back to draft night.
Saquon over Sam was just fine. For both teams.