If the Giants want to appease their fan base over the last four games of the season [three of them at home against division rivals whose own supporters are gobbling up tickets at MetLife Stadium] the interim leadership should consider a move that was nixed in the early stages two months ago:
Bring back Victor Cruz.
Co-owner John Mara has already stated that part of the decision in the timing to fire Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese this week was to avoid complete fan-archy at those upcoming games beginning on Sunday against the Cowboys. At this point, why not use these last four games to close the door completely on the current era, give Manning and Cruz one last chance to salsa together, and then move on with the housecleaning and “complete overhaul” that Mara said is needed?
Don’t think offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan would sign off on that? Then you didn’t see him stumble through his news conference last week after Manning was benched.
Don’t think Cruz has anything left to play? He can be covered by defenders just as easily as Tavarres King and Roger Lewis have been in their two-month audition as future cogs in the Giants offense.
Want to develop a new crop of talent at the position? The Giants already parted ways with rookie Ed Eagan without giving him much of a chance on offense and had promising undrafted rookie Travis Rudolph inactive for Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.
Mara said his goal for the rest of the month is to win. Win games, sure. But winning comes in many forms. Winning back fans after what has been an almost unprecedented three-month collapse of any public goodwill the Giants had going into this season is also a victory. And, as a benefit, it doesn’t necessarily cost the Giants any standing in the race toward the bottom of the NFL standings and the top of the NFL draft order.
Would Cruz be up for it? Maybe. Probably. He felt like he left a lot of unfinished business with the team when he was released this offseason and seemed genuinely hurt and confused when they did not reach out to him after they lost almost all of their wide receivers against the Chargers back in October.
He had some harsh words about the way the Giants treated him last year, but the people at whom those words were aimed are gone. Cruz could now help heal the wounds.
Cruz has certainly kept tabs on the only team he’s ever played for in a regular season game (he was with the Bears this preseason but did not make the team out of camp). He appeared on “Good Morning Football” on Tuesday on NFL Network to talk about the recent state of the Giants and said he thought the firing of McAdoo was “long overdue.”
“I think it was a couple of weeks already too late,” Cruz said. “Once you see guys in that locker room start to give these anonymous reports about how he’s handling them and practice on (Saturday), that’s how you know he’s completely lost the locker room and completely lost the players.”
That may not have been the case, although the smoke from that potential fire undoubtedly clouded McAdoo’s second and final season with the Giants. Cruz still has very close friends in the Giants locker room (and on the injured reserve list) so he would know what’s going on. He also likely saw this as a chance to take a shot back at the guy who essentially fired him in the offseason now that he’s been fired, too.
But the situation that most people believe to be the one that ended McAdoo’s tenure was the handling of the quarterback transition this past week.
“Benching Eli was probably one of the most disrespectful things I’ve seen in a very long time,” Cruz said. “I think what he’s done for that organization, what he’s done for the city of New York, especially this season where essentially you have nothing to play for. And you’re going to bench a guy that’s been your most consistent piece in 13, 14 years in that organization to assess your talent in the last four games of the season? I didn’t understand that. Especially a guy like Eli, you want him to go out and finish the year strong, finish the year how he wants. He’s earned the right to finish the year how he wants to finish the year. Not being benched. And then don’t slap him in the face and say, ‘Hey, we’ll start you for a half just to keep the streak alive.’ That’s not Eli’s swagger, that’s not how he is. He wants to be out there, and he wants to perform and win.”
Cruz may not give Eli the best chance to beat the Cowboys and Eagles in these next two weeks. It could turn these last few contests into Oldtimers Days at MetLife, a bit of a publicity stunt. But isn’t that what firing McAdoo and Reese this week was?
Bringing Cruz back would undoubtedly make a lot of fans happy. Make them remember better times. And allow them to get some closure before the new era of Giants football begins on Jan. 1.