The Giants' Saquon Barkley is tackled by the Cowboys' Keanu Neal...

The Giants' Saquon Barkley is tackled by the Cowboys' Keanu Neal in the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Saquon Barkley was drafted to become the face of the franchise for the Giants.

So far that’s pretty much been the case.

The running back and his team have been in disappointing lockstep for most of his nearly four full seasons, their simultaneous struggles coinciding with each other stride for stride.

Neither has lived up to the promise they were supposed to reach together, and as Barkley approaches the final year of his rookie contract with a front office housecleaning almost certain to come this offseason, there is reason to believe their relationship might not be as long-lived as once anticipated.

Barkley arrived as a superstar and burst into the NFL with a Rookie of the Year splash. Since then, he has rapidly fallen in production and popularity to the point that he now seems to embody all that is frustratingly wrong with an organization that has lost at least 10 games each season since he was selected with the second overall pick.

Barkley has said he wants to remain with the Giants for the rest of his career, but for the moment, he is disassociating himself from them.

He still has that team-first attitude that has made him a two-time captain, still wants the Giants to come out victorious in these final three games of another forgettable season. For the time being, however, his focus is shifting.

"I might sound a little selfish, but I want to go out there and finish on a high note for myself," Barkley said on Thursday. "Just continue to build that confidence and lead into the offseason and get myself prepared and ready for the rest of my career."

Barkley wants to help fix the Giants, but he knows he can’t do that unless he fixes himself.

"I feel like every time I’m up here, I always have to answer questions about everyone else’s expectations on myself," he said at his near-weekly media obligation. "At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is my thought process, you know what I mean? I’ve got to go out there and control what I can control.

"Football is an 11-man sport. It’s the greatest team sport in the world. But I’ve got to go out there and control what I can control. You always have to have a team mindset, but you’ve got to come back and focus on yourself and getting better every single day."

The disheartening part of that process for Barkley is that he already was there this year. He was back from the ACL injury he suffered last season and ready to become the dynamic playmaker he once was.

"I felt like after the Saints game [in Week 4], I would probably have been on track to being one of those guys who within the next season they get back to where they were or even better," he said before bringing up something running backs coach Burton Burns had said.

"Coach Burns told me I just had that look in my eye during the Dallas game, and I felt it. As players, you could just feel it sometimes when it’s going to be the game. The first time we played Dallas, just how I felt in warmups, how I felt in practice . . . I felt very confident that I was going to be able to have a big performance for the team and hopefully be able to turn the season around. I run a route, take my eyes off the field for a little bit, step on someone’s foot, out for a couple more weeks."

Since his return from that ankle injury that sidelined him for five weeks, Barkley has looked lost. After another subpar performance last week against the Cowboys that included the first lost fumble of his career, he was befuddled by yet another performance that was lacking.

"What do I have to do? I don’t know," Barkley said. "If I had the answer, I think I would be playing a lot better."

He has three more games this season to figure it out, and maybe one more season to accomplish what he was brought here to do: lead the Giants back to relevance.

More Giants

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.