The Giants chose Saquon Barkley second overall Thursday night.
The Giants didn't get cute. They got Saquon.
Holding the franchise's highest draft pick since taking Lawrence Taylor second overall in 1981, new general manager Dave Gettleman had an array of options when the Browns selected quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, off the top of the 8 o'clock hour on Thursday night. Take a quarterback? Trade down? Take the best pass rusher? The best offensive lineman?
In the end, though, the choice was easy.
Bronx native Saquon Barkley, the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and all-purpose yards at Penn State, became the newest member of a team coming off a franchise-record number of losses.
"At the end of the day? Do I have to tell the truth? Yes," Gettleman said when asked if ultimately the selection of Barkley was an easy decision. "Nothing changed. You can overthink it, it's a running back this and that, you can make yourself crazy about it and you can overthink things. You have to go with your instincts and understand what it takes to put together a winning football team."
But were there any offers worth his time for the pick?
"The short answer is no, not really," Gettleman said. "People call you and they want the second pick of the draft for a bag of donuts, a hot pretzel and a hot dog. Leave me alone. I don't have time to screw around."
From the day he was introduced in late December, Gettleman has stressed the importance of running the ball. If you piece together what he said in December, at the Senior Bowl in January, at the NFL Scouting Combine at the end of February and last week at his pre-draft press conference, Gettleman was not just blowing smoke in his effusive praise of Barkley.
The same goes for Pat Shurmur once he was hired as the team's new head coach. The former Vikings offensive coordinator has already started scheming things up for the versatile back.
"In my spare time, certainly," Shurmur said. "I think every guy that we thought we would take, in my mind, we had a role for. The running back is an easy guy to fit in an offense. You have to turn around and hand it to him. It doesn't take a genius to do that. Then, a lot of times when you try and throw the ball downfield and they cover them all, you can dump him off the ball, or you can feature him in the pass game.
"I have seen the effects of a really, really good running back not only on the offense, but on the team. You have to run the football not just for your offense, but for your team. I have seen the effect that a great running back can have on teams. I was excited about the fact that he was the best player in the draft and I was excited about the fact that we were able to draft him."
The pick, of course, was going to have ramifications on the two quarterbacks on the roster – 37-year-old Eli Manning and second-year pro Davis Webb – no matter which way it went.
"That tells you your answer right there," Gettleman said when asked if there was much discussion about making one of the quarterbacks the pick. "If you have to try to make yourself fall in love with a player, it is wrong. You will never be happy with the pick. You have to go through the process. As [Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations] Theo Epstein said, you don't cheat the process. You get all the information and give everyone their say at the right time. At the end of the day, you shouldn't have to talk yourself into a guy. If you talk yourself into a guy, you are making a mistake.
"There was a player on our board as recently as three days ago. We couldn't figure him out. We didn't know where he fit. Coaches weren't sure if he was a fit and we as evaluators weren't sure if he was a fit. You know what, at the end of the day, if you can't picture it, don't take him. That's really what it is. If you have to make yourself fall in love with a guy, you are going to make a mistake."
In Barkley's case, it was love at first sight. It was also the kind of love and conviction that former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi had 14 years ago with a quarterback out of Ole Miss. Gettleman, who originally joined the Giants in the spring of 1998 under Accorsi, saw the parallels.
After four seasons as the Carolina general manager, he returned to the Giants in the same role. Four days later, the Giants secured the second pick.
"I've been thinking about it since then," Gettleman said of the Manning draft. "I've got to evaluate our team, then go through all the draft processes. Again, like I told you guys last time – when I watched a player on the defensive side playing Penn State, I was like a 3-year-old, I was watching Saquon."
While Gettleman was ogling Barkley like a 3-year-old, he devised a long-term plan for his 37-year-old quarterback.
"He's going to play," Gettleman said of Manning. "What do you want me to tell you? He's our quarterback, we believe in him, he threw the hell out of the ball for three days [at this week's voluntary minicamp], he has not lost one bit of arm strength and I'm coming back five years later, watching a quarterback in his prime, and now he's 37. You have to stop worrying about age. Oh, by the way, Julius Peppers played last year at 38, Mike Davis played at 37. There are some guys that are just freaks. (Tom) Brady is 41. I mean c'mon. He is our quarterback."
Meanwhile, Webb is only 23. Shurmur said he didn't "know if it is a vote of confidence" for Webb, but they certainly "loved" what they saw from him this week.
"This is one pick," Shurmur said. "[Barkley] is a tremendous player and he is going to do a lot for our offense and our organization. If everyone gets to know him as well as we got to know him, everyone is going to see how special this young man is."