Dave Gettleman did Saquon Barkley no favors in 2018 when the former Giants general manager infamously said the young running back had been “touched by the hand of God, frankly.”
Frankly, it was a memorable quote, but in the years since he was drafted No. 2 overall, it’s been one that has been used against Barkley more often than to praise him.
Well, here we are in Year 5, and . . . well, let’s not go where Gettleman did. No one needs to hear that sort of thing at this early stage of the season.
And God is busy enough right now focusing on Aaron Judge’s launch angle.
But four games in, the Giants are 3-1 and Barkley continues to resemble the player the franchise thought it was getting before injuries — and dysfunctional offenses — derailed him.
On Sunday, he rushed 31 times for 146 yards and caught two passes for 16, including a spectacular escape in the backfield to conjure a first down out of nothing, thanks in part to a block from quarterback Daniel Jones.
Then he became the team’s emergency quarterback in the fourth quarter after Jones and Tyrod Taylor were injured.
Not a bad day at the office for Barkley, who has rushed 84 times for 463 yards and two touchdowns and caught 15 passes for 107.
The subplot is that Barkley will be a 26-year-old free agent come 2023, which if this keeps up will put him and the Giants in a deliciously interesting contract situation.
But that drama is at least 13 games away. For now, Barkley is doing an excellent imitation of his 2018 rookie self, when he rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns.
First-year coach Brian Daboll has been talking since he got here about how good Barkley is, but he was asked after the game whether the magnitude of said goodness has surprised him.
“He’s a good player for us,” Daboll said. “I mean, we’re in Week 4. So he’s one of our better players. Again, you can use him a bunch. You can use him as a decoy a bunch.
“I understand the question: Am I surprised? Not surprised? I just think I watch him at practice. He goes out there. He prepares hard, and then he tries to play as good as he can play.”
Excelling against the Bears has added meaning for Barkley, because it was against them in Week 2 of 2020 that he tore an ACL, an injury from which he only recently has fully recovered.
On Thursday, he said: “Not to be arrogant, but when I went back and watched film on the touchdown run I had on Monday [against the Cowboys], making that jump cut inside a hole and making those two guys miss and finding a way to score, those are the plays where it kind of puts a smile on your face. And you’re like: That’s the guy I know!”
That is pretty much what the rest of the football world has been seeing and saying.
Sunday’s strange fourth quarter added another bit of lore should the team and Barkley end up making this a special season.
When Taylor went out, Daboll said he ordered up an old-fashioned grease board to scheme out what would come next.
“It was like you were 8 years old playing with your friends on Sunday getting ready,” Barkley said. “You’re just drawing it up: ‘I’m the quarterback. This is what we are going to do. This is how we’re going to do it.’ ”
Somehow they did it. And Barkley was at the top of the list, battering a Bears defense that knew exactly what was coming from a wide receiver-challenged opponent.
“It is really hard to run the ball in the NFL when it’s a loaded box,” said Barkley, who declined to take credit for succeeding in doing so anyway, giving it instead to the game plan, the system, the linemen, the quarterback and everyone else short of the stadium concession stand vendors.
That’s fine. But the rest of us now can state the obvious: Barkley is back.