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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

With every loss, Giants wasting Saquon Barkley's best years

Giants' Saquon Barkley looks for running room against

Giants' Saquon Barkley looks for running room against the Eagles.  Credit: Getty Images/Al Bello

Saquon Barkley sat on a stool in front of his locker, his voice barely above a whisper as he tried to process the latest disappointment.

Only a few minutes earlier, he walked off the field after a crushing 23-17 overtime loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. It was the Giants’ ninth straight loss, matching the longest losing streak in franchise history, dating to the height of the team’s misfortune in 1976.

“We’re a team that finds a way to lose a lot of games,” the second-year running back said. “That’s what we are as of right now. That’s our team. We’re an inconsistent football team. We find ways to lose games.”

He may be stating the obvious, considering the Giants have gone  7-22 since he was the second overall pick of the 2018 draft. But to hear those words come out of Barkley’s mouth was jarring, especially given his relentlessly positive attitude. He came to the Giants after a brilliant career at Penn State, hoping to inject new life into a franchise that has lost its way after it won the Super Bowl in the 2011 season, the franchise’s fourth title.

But Barkley has done more losing over the last two seasons than at any point in his life. The Giants are 6-20 in games he has played and he wasn’t able to finish one of those victories. In Daniel Jones’ debut, when he directed a miraculous second-half comeback in a 32-31 win, Barkley was in the locker room with a badly sprained ankle he suffered in the second quarter.

He is at his wit’s end trying to figure out why.

“We’re coming in to work, we’re grinding, we’re pushing each other, the energy is good, the vibe is good,” he said. “I’ve heard stories when teams are 2-11, you can see a lot of quit. I don’t see quit. I don’t see any laziness. We’re all going to work every single day. We’ve got to find a way. The way you change [the losing] is by continuing to believe that things will turn around.”

But things haven’t turned around. If anything, the Giants are far worse off than when Barkley got here. And that’s saying something, considering the team has been to the playoffs just once since winning their last Vince Lombardi Trophy.

General manager Dave Gettleman had zero hesitation in making Barkley his most important player acquisition in Year 1, saying even his mother could have figured out that the All-America tailback was the best player in the 2018 draft. But Barkley is wasting some of his best years on a team that has given no indication of the turnaround he continues to believe will one day happen.

He hopes he doesn’t become a latter-day Barry Sanders, who produced a Hall of Fame career with the Lions but never won a championship and spent most of his career on losing teams. Sanders’ contemporary, Emmitt Smith, may not have flashed the dazzling open-field moves of Sanders, but he won three titles with the Cowboys because Jimmy Johnson knew how to build championship teams in the early ’90’s. Both men now wear gold jackets, but Smith has the championship bling that Sanders never won.

Despite the chronic losing, Barkley refuses to surrender. Nor will he place blame on a coaching staff that is almost sure to be replaced at season’s end.

“I believe in the coaching staff,” he said. “It sucks because it’s not working how I would have liked.”

What makes it even more frustrating is Barkley’s belief in what the Giants represent. But it’s that culture that he believes will one day transform this woebegone team into a winner.

One day.

“I know [in] this place we can win big,” he said. “It’s the Giants. It’s one of the best organizations in the world. When we come to work, you can see it by, not just by the players, but the people upstairs, the staff, the training staff, the kitchen staff, every staff up there. The way we’re built, the way we operate. We have a winning culture inside. We just don’t do it on Sundays. It makes no sense to me.”

He remains unbowed.

“I believe that it’s going to turn around,” he said, “and when it does, it’s going to be a major story. But for that to happen, we’ve got to find a way to win a game.”

Actually, they have to win a lot of games for a turnaround to happen. The Giants can only hope that day will come before Barkley’s days as a big-time running back are over.

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