Saquon Barkley

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Keidel: Blowout Win In Washington Exactly What Giants Needed

Jason Keidel
December 10, 2018 - 1:47 pm
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Finally, the Giants won a game, on the road, against a divisional foe. It was a laugher from whistle to gun, one of the biggest blowouts in our nation's capital since Reagan vs Mondale. 

Eli Manning tossed three touchdowns with zero interceptions to finish with a 141.9 passer rating. Saquon Barkley ran for 170 yards, averaging 12.1 yards per carry, and had perhaps his best game in a season already stuffed with highlights. They blanked the Redskins for most of the game until two garbage-time TDs prevented the shutout. 

How happy should Giants fans be with their gridiron assault on the Washington Redskins? Is their 40-16 win the start of a new identity? Or is it a referendum on the state of the 'Skins? All NFL clubs are wounded by the time we inch toward Christmas, but the Redskins are laughably damaged even by NFL standards with a skeleton crew under center.  

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When you lose your starting quarterback (Alex Smith) with playoff pedigree, it's hard to still aim for the postseason. But when you also lose his backup (Colt McCoy) to yet another injured leg, it has the hallmarks of a hex. Add the fact that you're forced to start Mark Sanchez, who has had to pinball across the NFL map since those two enchanted seasons with the Jets and is now defined by butt fumbles, interceptions and losing his starting gig to Trevor Siemian. 

So, when Sanchez, eons removed from his exalted Sanchise sobriquet, threw two quick picks on Sunday, they replaced him with Josh Johnson. In case the name doesn't ring a bell, Johnson is a football vagabond who has bounced around the sport into his 30s. Johnson was so far removed from the big leagues he was just drafted by Bill Polian - who hasn't run an NFL team in eight years - and that new knockoff league called the AAF (Alliance of American Football). To give you an idea of the talent pool funneled toward the AAF, consider that Christian Hackenberg is also a franchise QB. 

Wins are the only real currency in the NFL, so the G-Men need not apologize for pounding the depleted Redskins. Most NFL games are so agonizingly close that the best tonic for a team is the occasional laugher. Who cares if this is now the second week in a row the Giants vanquished a second-tier QB? (Their first came against Chicago Bears backup Chase Daniel). 

But you can't help but wonder which fan base feels better, that of Gang Green or Big Blue? The Jets won on the arm of their rookie QB, Sam Darnold, who made some eyebrow-arching throws on Sunday. Darnold even showed some internal toughness by returning to the game after limping off with a balky foot. And though Manning was Good Eli in Washington, it was Barkley who yet again made Madden '19 runs, gashing the Redskins secondary with the speed, strength and vision that made him the No. 2 pick in the draft. 

No matter how sublime Barkley has become - and even those of us who question the pick must marvel at his athletic splendor - he will never become the centerpiece of a Super Bowl club, because he's not a quarterback. So, unless the Giants saw Darnold, Rosen and Allen as an unholy trinity of rookie QBs, they will still wonder if they served this year while sacrificing the next ten years. 

Still, the Giants played with intelligence and teamwork that has eluded them for three seasons. Sure, they were pseudo-scavengers for four quarters, picking the flesh off a team that has been rotting for four weeks. The NFL buzzards are circling FedEx Field knowing there's no fight left in that gang of gridiron carrion. 

Even so, the G-Men have won four of their last five games. And in a season that has forced the clashing goals of needing to win and needing a QB in next year's draft, too many Giants are playing for their jobs to hibernate the rest of the year. They can't worry about Justin Herbert next season if they don't survive this season. 

MORE: Keidel: Pat Shurmur Doesn't Feel Like The Leader The Giants Need

Carl Banks took issue with yours truly last week when this space questioned Pat Shurmur's bona fides as a football coach. To be clear, I've only questioned Shurmur's qualities as an NFL head coach, not as a man, son, father, or husband. Banks, who happens to be a friend, asserted that I had no idea what I was talking about. (Certainly wont be the first time I don't.) And no matter how much football we cover as writers, we will never have a fraction of Banks's traction as a Pro Bowl linebacker who won two Super Bowls. But questioning the coach of a 4-8 football club is wholly fair, if not warranted.

So Shurmur can silence all blowhards and cynics by winning. It's an ornery road through December, with three games against teams - Titans, Colts, and Cowboys - all of whom are over .500 and pining for the playoffs. In fact, if the Giants keep knocking teams over, it serves the twin purposes of coaching stability and our ability as sportswriters to cover a team you still care about. 

You won't find a better football man or mind than Carl Banks, nor one with a sharper eye for the nuances of the NFL. We may not agree on Shurmur's aura or mystique, but if the Giants win at least two more games, he will secure his destiny as football coach of the New York Football Giants. It's the rare time I will be both wrong about a coach and be happy about it. You can take that to the Banks. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel