I see you, Victor Cruz

Victor Cruz was undebatably the best receiver in the NFC East this season.

My first job out of college was selling copiers/printers for Xerox, and we’re not talking about little dinky piece of crap desktop copiers that you might get at Staples.  For those of you that have an office job, the copier/printer that you’re using probably cost about as much as the last car you bought, especially if it also prints/copies in color.  People can’t wrap their heads around paying that kind of money for documents, and I can’t blame them.  Additionally, Xerox had all sorts of competitors: Canon, Ricoh, Toshiba, Sharp, Minolta, Kyocera, etc etc etc.  And finally, it wasn’t like people were knocking our doors down saying “I need a copier! What can you show me?”  You had to find your customers on your own.  For those 3 major reasons, it wasn’t easy trying to sell these things, especially when you went to school for Radio/TV/Film, and had exactly zero background in sales.

I think that when they hired me, they were sort of taking a flyer on me.  My salary was only $12K/year (yes, $1,000/month), so in other words, I was basically full commission.  All it realistically cost my company to bring me aboard was giving me a territory they may have otherwise given to to someone else.  I was selling enough to survive initially, and then actually started doing pretty well the second half of my first year there.  It was right around the beginning of my 2nd year that I started to rake.  We had what were called “stack rankings,” which were the equivalent of NFL statistics.  These stack rankings showed how your sales were in comparison to the rest of the other people in the office.  Month after month, I was routinely in the top 2 or 3 that second year.

Right around the beginning of that second year, my manager went on maternity leave, so they promoted one of the other sales guys to take her place.  100% coincidentally, his promotion lined up perfectly with when my numbers really started to take off.

And so, this new manager got the bulk of the credit for my revenue production, when in reality, he had absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever.  I didn’t need praise heaped on me, but to see someone else get the majority of the recognition for my hard work pissed me off something awful.

I think I see some aspects of that going on with Victor Cruz and Eli Manning.  Cruz was an undrafted free agent out of then Division 1-AA UMass.  He was a training camp / preseason phenom in 2010, but because the Giants were flush with receivers, they stashed him on the IR with a “hamstring injury” (quotes intended) for a season.

This year, after losing Steve Smith via free agency, Dominik Hixon to a season-ending ACL tear in Week 2, and Mario Manningham for Week 3 against the Eagles, Cruz got his shot.  He only got 38 snaps combined the first two weeks of the season, but here’s what he has done since Week 3:

Opponent Rec Yards TD
Eagles 3 110 2
Cardinals 6 98 0
Seahawks 8 161 1
Bills 2 12 0
Dolphins 7 99 1
Patriots 6 91 0
Niners 6 84 0
Eagles 6 128 1
Saints 9 157 2
Packers 7 119 0
Cowboys 6 74 0
Redskins 5 44 0
Jets 3 164 1
Totals 74 1341 8
Per game 5.7 103.2 0.6
Over 16 games 91 1651 10

Yesterday, the Pro Bowl rosters were released.  Eli Manning made the cut, as he has most certainly had a very good season.  His numbers aren’t as good as guys like Matthew Stafford or Tony Romo, but he’s getting a certain level of bonus credit for doing what he’s doing this year with what people perceive as junk around him.  For example, it’s not uncommon to hear something like “Eli’s doing it with no running game, a bad OL, and he has to throw to guys like Jake Ballard and Victor Cruz.”  While I agree with a few of those points, Victor Cruz’s name doesn’t belong in that sentence.

Conversely, Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha did not make the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2007, as he had a down year. One of the things you hear regularly about Asomugha’s critics in 2011 is something to the effect of “Victor Cruz smoked him,” (emphasis on “Victor Cruz,” as if it’s such an embarrassing thing to have been beaten by him).

In the same way that it pissed me off to see my manager get praise for my sales production, it has to annoy Cruz that his name is being used the way I’ve seen it used extensively in the two examples above.  It’s a crime against nature that he isn’t going to Honolulu this year, by the way.  I like Greg Jennings, and he’s a great player, but his numbers don’t touch Cruz’s with a 10-foot pole. Anyway, I didn’t want to make this about the Pro Bowl, as we all know (or at least should know) that it’s a joke.

I have a news flash.  Victor Cruz is a flat-out playmaker.  A few fans of opposing teams are hoping he’s a one-year wonder.  Don’t count on it.  Frankly, the scary thing about Cruz is that he’s still raw.  As a route runner, he’ll only get better.  That’s not to say he’s a bad route runner right now, but he doesn’t exactly have the polish of a Reggie Wayne in that regard.  Not to mention, as he matures as a pro, some of those lapses of concentration with dropped passes should erode away as well.

If you weren’t a 1st round pick out of the SEC, it’ll take a little longer before people think you’re legit.  Such is the life of an undrafted kid out of a 1-AA school. But if it makes you feel any better, Victor, I see you.

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  57. […] in the league, hands down?  Yeah, uh, not so much in 2011.  Victor Cruz already got love from me this week.  He starts along with teammate Hakeem Nicks.  And then it gets ugly.  Who do you […]

  58. WeNeedLinemen says:

    I thought Cruz and Manning should be in the Pro Bowl. Both have been having good seasons. Both have contributed to the others success.

    Is Manning working with less talent than Romo and Stafford, I think so. That’s not a knock on Cruz, one man doesn’t make a receiving corps.

    The thing that strikes me about Cruz is the similarity in build to Miles Austin. Cruz is smaller but he has got those out-sized quads, a bit like Barry Sanders and Earl Campbell. May be more trainers should start to re-evaluate what matters to receivers and start focusing on greater lower body power.

  59. Will B says:

    You could make the same argument about how Eli didn’t have a running game this year, a poor o-line, and a bad defense for Matthew Stafford. And you know what? Stafford’s numbers are quite higher than Eli’s. And Stafford had at least 4 comebacks this season when down by 17 points. Yeah, I’m quite pissed how stupid Eli got the pro bowl pick and Stafford didn’t. Just proves how the pro bowl is just for name’s sake.

    1. AtlEagle says:

      I think Stafford has had a much better season then Eli, but the pro-bowl selection is so screwed up that I dont put much weight to it. I am not sure on all of Stafford’s comebacks, but at least one of them is less his play, and more the fault of Romo throwing touchdown to the wrong team.

    2. giants fan says:

      Are you really that mad about a pro bowl selection?

  60. Number5 says:

    Manning was your manager Jimmy, compared to Stafford and Newton, Eli had no business going to the pro-bowl.

    1. giants fan says:

      don’t be an idiot. you can make legitimate arguments for any of those quarterbacks. they have to draw the line somewhere and this year they picked manning instead of stafford/newton/romo etc. next year it might be different. tough titties.

      1. Dez Bryant's Probation Officer says:

        “Tough titties” sums up so much in life. It is a vastly underappreciated expression. Thank you for putting it to good use in this instance.

      2. Number5 says:

        He’s had a good season, but if you think he had a better than Cam or Matt you are very very wrong

        1. giants fan says:

          That’s actually quite funny.

          1) This is not Eli’s first good season.
          2) Cam and Matt have actually only had one good season (Matt due to injuries and Cam because he’s a rookie).

          Nice argument though, really convincing.

    2. RogerPodacter says:

      i watched a lot of giants games this year (lots of friends are giants fans) and eli manning was absolutely the reason they won a lot of their games for most of this year. Lately, he hasn’t been playing as well and the team has suffered.

      he might not have the numbers of some of the other guys, but he definitely deserves to be in the pro bowl this year.

  61. Nick C says:

    I honestly see huge parallels between cruz this year and austin in 09. (and to a lesser degree the way robinson has stepped in and done wonders for the cowboys)

    1. Brian says:

      I was just about to say that. Cruz and Austin also have similar physical styles.

  62. BryanH says:

    Lalalalala I’m not listening, Cruz is a one year wonder just like Austin was lalalalala

  63. RogerPodacter says:

    does the lack of a running game mean more inflated numbers for the receivers?

    i’m not trying to take anything away from him, but lets think about it this way. i can’t imagine the giants running game to be anything near as awful as it was this season. i would expect a more successful running game to take a lot of catches and yards away from all of the receivers, not just cruz.
    that said, would a more successful running game only open up MORE room for him to run after the catch and pick up MORE yards? hmmmm

  64. giants fan says:

    I think it’s a little of both. Manning puts Cruz in a good position to succeed and Cruz helps Manning with his ridiculous YAC numbers. If Smith had half of the ability Cruz has after the catch, he would have shattered Amani’s record during his 100 catch campaign a few years ago.

  65. Dez Bryant's Probation Officer says:

    He dances like a fairy. Gotta work on that in the offseason. Otherwise, nice all around game.

  66. brisulph says:

    I still think he will regress next year, but he should still be good for about 800-1000 yards (health willing). He will not be able to sneak up on teams as easily next year.

    1. Free Plax says:

      As long as Nicks is healthy and productive on the other side, it makes it hard for teams to concentrate on him. His numbers may dip, but I think he will get better as a reciever next season.

    2. AtlEagle says:

      I thought this guy was junk at the first Eagles/Giants matchup, and could not believe he pulled down a TD between NA and a safety ( regardless of your opinion on the quality of the safety) … that should never happen with a JAG receiver. As the season went on, he kept doing the same type of things to many teams. Not only does he get the catches and the yards, he does it in ways that arent meaningless garbage stats. Even if he does regress a bit next year, this guy is a stud, and I am pretty pissed about it.

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