To the victor go the . . . blame?
In another week bathed in misery for the blue half of New York, Victor Cruz made the glaring error of publicly questioning one of his coach’s decisions. Well, I’ve got a bone to pick with Vic in response. Cruz has been the shining light amidst a New York Giants franchise otherwise waist deep in doom and gloom in 2013 thus far.
The star of the 2012 Pro Bowl (and plenty of lucrative commercials in the meantime) leads the Big Blue in receiving yards once more, and has more receptions (26) than their other two leading wideouts, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle, combined.
Three of Cruz’s four outings so far this season have seen him top 100 yards or more, with his latest performance being his best of the season (164 yards and touchdown), an effort that came once again in vain as the G-Men imploded around him, slipping to 0-4 for the first time since 1987.
The plaudits keep coming for the salsa sensation: he is tied for fourth in the NFL on touchdown receptions (four), tied for first for receptions of 40-plus yards (three) and is ranked third overall on accumulative receiving yardage through four games (425), topped only by Torrey Smith and Julio Jones.
So, it may seem quite puzzling to many that the finger of blame should be pointed towards such a standout performer in an otherwise dismal team — yet point we shall.
As is sadly the way with a good 95 percent of sporting phenomena across the spectrum, money does all the talking. Cruz proved in the offseason between 2012 and 2013 that he is no different. Once a modest, unknown entity from the ‘mean streets’ of Paterson, NJ, Cruz fell distinctly under the radar and went undrafted in 2010. He was picked up and bailed out by his hometown team, a team which he would later go on to effectively hold ransom.
Ironically, it was a New York senator that coined the term “to the victor go the spoils” way back in the annuls of time. The spoils came in 2011 at the back end of a brilliant breakout season, as Cruz was elevated to the substantial heights of Super Bowl champion as the Giants toppled the New England Patriots in ‘Deja-Blue’ in Indianapolis.
With the spoils and the ring came the bling, the fame and the fortune. Evidently, the mint was bound to come into question sooner rather than later.
A star was born overnight almost accidentally; something that Cruz long seems to have forgotten. Had it not been for a Mario Manningham injury heading into a Week 3 game in 2011, I doubt we would be discussing this matter now.
After all, Cruz had done little up to that point to convince Tom Coughlin that he was ready to go; an ineffective preseason certainly showed no signs that there was a 1,500-plus yard receiver waiting in the wings.
Cruz owes his current standing in life to the Giants franchise and to Coughlin. As harsh as it may seem, he was previously nothing. A modest college career was the reason he went undrafted; he was a great unknown and ended up being living proof that your entire life can change on a chance encounter.
This was seemingly forgotten over the past summer as Cruz made himself the center of attention, holding out on the team and the fans that were behind his elevated status all in the name of money.
The counterargument will be that Cruz “deserved to get paid” or “compare him to other receivers of his caliber” — I’ve heard it all since March, and I still believe there is a lot to be said for not forgetting where you came from, and to show more consideration for the people that got you to where you are.
The Giants’ offseason was dominated by the Cruz saga. The team’s preparation was surely affected, as well as the mentality of the remainder of the squad. Cruz even had fellow teammates clambering to restructure their deals just to compensate for his demands. Surely, there is the possibility that this could have had an adverse effect on morale and the team’s fortunes as a whole?
Not so coincidentally, the Giants are 0-4 this season. Case closed.