Saquon Barkley and Eli Manning on the field before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

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Keidel: Barkley Has Been Amazing, But Giants Still Need A QB

Jason Keidel
December 21, 2018 - 1:26 pm

About two months ago, during another dazzling Sunday from Saquon Barkley, a Facebook friend plastered my page with a caustic question. He asked me if I regret or rescind my assertion that the Giants should have bagged a quarterback in the most recent NFL Draft. 

The Giants wound up losing the game, and the post was curiously erased from my page. 

Fans of the rookie running back seem to miss the point on this point of view. Barkley is everything you want in a football player and a human being. But no matter his athletic splendor, Barkley is not the guy to turn Big Blue into a big-time club. It has nothing to do with his character or number of carries, but rather his direct influence on a football game. 

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In high school or college, a halfback can run an offense or bowl over a defense into submission. But not in the pros. Case in point is not only the aformentioned game this year, but also this entire season. Barkley will likely moonwalk with the Rookie of the Year award. Yet this season will still be a referendum on the declining skills of QB Eli Manning. 

If you don't believe the quick logic of the QB's influence on football, consider the teams across the league. Of the 12 teams to clinch or should clinch a spot in the NFL playoffs, half of them - Cowboys, Bears, Rams, Chiefs, Texans, Titans - are led by quarterbacks playing on their rookie contracts. 

Up until a few weeks ago, the two Super Bowl favorites (Rams and Chiefs) were led by quarterbacks under 25-years-old and yet to sign their second deals. They have since been replaced by the Saints and Chargers, both of whom have aging, iconic passers who make megabucks, but still they drafted the rest of their young athletic rosters, keeping them financially pliable. 

Don't forget Philadelphia - who could also sneak into the playoffs this year - just won the Super Bowl with Carson Wentz on his rookie deal, and his backup, Nick Foles, making pedestrian money. It's also not a coincidence that the Patriots keep contending when Tom Brady keeps taking hometown discounts so that the Pats can spread the payroll like butter across the roster. 

The Seahawks had a pseudo-dynasty when Russell Wilson was making less than $1 million per year and were able to lavish their cash upon the Legion of Boom. Once Wilson got his bucks, the Seahawks, at least as perennial Super Bowl contenders, collapsed. 

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The Giants have a great running back making pennies on the dollar, yet still pay Eli at least $20 million a year. So as they enter the next NFL draft with at least a top-ten pick, it's a chance to fix their QB issue. Even if Eli returns next year, they need to snag a quarterback to kneel at the Manning altar, make lower-tier money and pray he's ready to roll by the time Eli leaves MetLife Stadium in 12 months. 

Dialogue across the board - especially around the bowels of social media - has become so divisive and vulgar, it feels like we must loathe one person or player in order to love another. Nonsense. The objection to the Barkley draft pick was strictly a professional critique, not personal. Had Barkley's body turned out a bit longer and leaner, and he decided to throw the ball rather than run it, he would be the face of any NFL franchise. 

The G-Men and their fans will watch January football and see Jared Goff, Dak Prescott, DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes throw darts down the field, in the wind, through the snow, marching toward that Lombardi Trophy. Meanwhile, MetLife will assume its annual role as an NFL mausoleum. This weekend they hit the road to play another team that is quite secure under center - the Colts and Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, the Giants are relegated to film study and scouting for another winter waiting for their next savior. 

Whether you dig the guy from Ohio State or West Virginia, from Oregon or Missouri, you have to be on the QB bandwagon by now. Big Blue can't be taken seriously until they find Eli Manning's replacement. Then Saquon Barkley can assume his proper role - to help the Giants, not save them.  

Twitter: @JasonKeidel