No matter what Saquon Barkley does on the field, it might never be enough. His legacy might be determined, in part, by what becomes of the player selected directly after him in the 2018 NFL draft.
For better or worse, they will be linked for the remainder of their careers. Darnold would've been a fit for either team, but the Giants elected to pass on him.
If Darnold turns into a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback for the Jets while the Giants toil in quarterback obscurity, it will be quite a reversal of fortune. It is the Jets who have forever been tortured by their lack of a franchise quarterback. The Giants have been set at the game's most critical position for the better part of the past 30 years.
Thursday night could be viewed as the turning point for both franchises, depending on how it all unfolds. It could be rehashed relentlessly.
Giants fans will wonder: What if general manager Dave Gettleman had pulled the trigger on Darnold rather than quadruple up on an aging Eli Manning and place such a massive bet on quarterback Davis Webb? Webb was the Giants' third-round pick last year.
It almost doesn't matter what Barkley does in his career. He would have to be an all-time great running back to even come close to silencing the regret for passing on a franchise quarterback if Darnold pans out and turns into something special. The Giants are apparently willing to bet that Barkley will be a Pro Football Hall of Famer -- the gold-jacket prospect that Gettleman so desperately desired with the No. 2 pick -- and that Darnold won't come close to accomplishing what Manning has in his career.
This is hardly a knock on Barkley. It's strictly the consequences that come with the opportunity of picking high in the draft and bypassing a quarterback in a year when five were selected in the first round.
Barkley was the Giants' "unanimous best player in the draft" for a reason. They believe he will be a difference-maker, that he will make everybody better.
Any doubt about the Giants' selection will always fall back on positional value. It's the result of Barkley playing a position that hardly compares to quarterback. The salaries of players at each position explains everything. The league's top-paid running back is set to make $14.5 million this season. The league's top-paid quarterback is set to make $28 million.
Quarterbacks are valued differently than running backs. It's the quarterbacks that get all the credit when it comes to winning, in part because they can impact the game the most.
Darnold vs. Barkley. Barkley vs. Darnold. Who will have the greater impact on their team? It will be debated over many years.
It wasn't a factor in the Giants' decision to take Barkley. Gettleman wanted to make the pick with 9:58 remaining on the 10-minute draft clock.
"You guys have got to understand me. I don't care," he said. "All I care about is the New York Football Giants, and every decision we make will be in the best interest of the New York Football Giants.
"I don't care about that stuff. It doesn't bother me. I know you're looking at me like I'm crazy. I don't care. Every decision that we are going to make is going to be in the best interest of the New York Football Giants. It is going to be in the best interest of this iconic franchise."
Gettleman didn't consider any of the quarterbacks -- including Darnold -- in the same class as Barkley. The Penn State running back was his highest-graded player since Peyton Manning in 1998. He didn't even consider the risk of losing Barkley.
The Giants didn't accept trade offers once Mayfield went No. 1 overall to the Browns. Gettleman told his guys not to take any calls once they went on the clock. It didn't matter if there was a quarterback like Darnold that many had ranked as the top player at his position in the draft -- or that the 20-year-old's mental and psychological makeup was perfect for the Giants.
Darnold was never a serious option for them with Barkley on the board.
"They went Mayfield; we were taking Saquon," Gettleman. "It's that simple."
It's a decision that might come back to bite the Giants down the road. At the very least, it will be one that will be constantly debated.