By Jason Keidel
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Remember when Victor Cruz was a nobody?
Like one of the red shirts on Star Trek, ready to morph into a salt cube 60 seconds into the show, Cruz was an unknown tryout, wearing a disposable No. 3, lighting up the Jets in a preseason game.
We know who Cruz is now, and we know he can still torch the Jets, just as the Giants still dominate the Jets everywhere that matters. Leave Page Six to Gang Green, while the Giants quietly cruise through another offseason. Beyond handling a potentially messy situation with aplomb, the Giants are never shrouded in the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Jets.
Cruz, 26, signed a six-year, $46 million deal, which is really a $24 million deal (the latter being the amount of guaranteed money). And there’s the regional and cultural fine print. Cruz is a local, Latin kid whose Hispanic heritage added to the MetLife marquee and salsa touchdown dance became a national rage. (Even the Material Girl mimicked his hips.)
You and I are about as likely to play for the Giants in 2018 as Cruz is. But he got enough to set himself and his family for life. And that was his stated goal. And that is the quintessence of the American Dream for an undrafted free agent.
The Giants often reach their goals because they are the antithesis of the Jets. Or are the Jets the antithesis of the Giants? No matter, one does business by volume and the other with volume. The Giants, to borrow anther Star Trek metaphor, are about the needs of the team over the needs of the player. The Giants are about understatement, a corporate cadence and decency; the Jets are about headlines and gaseous prognostications and decibels.
Granted, it’s exponentially easier to be a model franchise with a franchise quarterback. Just as Jim Leyland looks like a savant whenever he jots Justin Verlander on the card, the Giants have a head start on 25 teams every September as long as Eli Manning is manning the helm.
But you’ll notice Manning is at home nursing a new baby while Mark Sanchez is doing “Girls Gone Wild” videos with virtual babies in some apartment, with that headband contraption that has all of us scratching our scalps. Tom Coughlin is studying film while Rex Ryan is in Pamplona getting his Hemingway on.
Just look at leadership. Coughlin and Manning handle their business while Ryan guarantees Super Bowls, records foot fetish videos, takes shots at colleagues (see: Norv Turner), and runs down alleys with half-ton beasts with trying to jam a horn through his ribs.
Mark Sanchez, whose work ethic has often been questioned, seems more interested in being a celebrity than an NFL star. If it feels like Sanchez is counting the hours until the Jets drop the corporate guillotine on him, he probably is. The moment his contract expires, the Jets will have a van waiting for him outside the building.
The Giants are allergic to drama. Even the around the draft, where the Jets supposedly picked the progenitors of a new empire, produced a player who (allegedly!) passed out in his car on the side of a road, shirt coated in vomit, with an arsenal that would make Rambo blush. The aforementioned player, Mike Goodson, was new GM John Idzik’s first free agent signing.
Plaxico Burress was the last Giant whose drama derailed a season. The Giants cut him and won another Super Bowl. The Jets, of course, plucked him like a crumb off the rug, after his prison stint. The Jets have no one to run, throw, or catch the ball. The Giants have all three in abundance, even without Ahmad Bradshaw.
It starts at the top. The Giants are Spock: logical, pragmatic, precise. The Jets are the throaty Yoeman who disobeyed orders before beaming down and dying on some alien planet. One is a model franchise. The other is a franchise with an aspiring model.
You can decide which team is closer to the Super Bowl.
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