Former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has accused the Giants of intentionally suppressing his production in 2016 in order to make it easier for the team to cut him.
Head coach Ben McAdoo responded to the comments on Thursday at OTAs, telling SNY's Ralph Vacchiano "there's no accuracy to it."
Cruz finished the season with 39 receptions for 586 yards and only one touchdown. It was the wide receiver's first season back on the field after missing the previous two years due to injuries.
"I felt it all year long. Halfway through the year I'm ballin', the other half I'm not getting the ball. And you're just like, 'what's going on?' It was like 'ok, I see what's happening. They don't want me here anymore.' " Cruz said during an appearance on 105.1 FM's The Breakfast Club. "A lot of people probably don't know this… Let's say I played well - was a 1,000-yard receiver last year - it would have been more difficult from a fan perspective to cut me."
"If I am a 1,000-yard guy, they're like 'why are you cutting Cruz? He just 1,000 yards and five or six touchdowns. That doesn't make sense.' But if I have 500 yards or whatever the case may be, it's a little easier on the fans."
Cruz added that he had reachable incentives in his contract that would have earned him a large sum of money in 2017.
"If I played well, they owed me a ton of money that next year," said Cruz. "So it was like, 'let's get Cruz off the books.' "
Cruz went on to admit he was "hurt" by New York's decision to release him after the contributions he made to the franchise over the years.
"It hurt, to be real. I gave so much to them. Seven years," Cruz said. "It definitely hurt . . . but every run has to stop at some point."
When asked directly if he believed Eli Manning was in on this plan, Cruz stopped short of suggesting his former quarterback was a part of the supression.
"It's hard to believe. Even just to think about someone coming up to the quarterback and saying 'hey, don't throw it here' or 'don't give it to this guy' - it's hard to even fathom that thought. Which I don't even know or think happens. I doubt it," said Cruz. "But when you look at the film and look at how it goes down, it's the only way."
Later on Thursday, Cruz tweeted that he never said he was sabotaged.
"I love the @Giants," he wrote. "They gave me a platform no one else did. I am forever grateful! I never said I was sabotaged, don't believe these headlines."
It's hard to know what is more ludicrous: Victor Cruz's assertion that the Giants purposely didn't throw him the ball last season, or his denial later that he ever said it. I mean, he knows there's a recording, right?
This is a conspiracy theory, nothing more - and not a particularly good one. The idea, as Cruz suggests - and really pretty much outright says - that the Giants froze him out of the offense just so they wouldn't have to pay him next season is crazy. As if the Giants would sacrifice what they believed was a legitimate shot a championship for that.
It is impossible to imagine that midway through the season John Mara or Jerry Reese made the decision that Cruz's days as a Giant were over, so they told Ben McAdoo to diminish his role, and the rookie coach then in turn told Eli Manning to stop throwing in Cruz's direction. Even if you believed the Giants wanted to pinch pennies like that, wouldn't it have been easier to just bench Cruz? Then they could have replaced him with a player Manning was allowed to throw to so the offense didn't suffer. Or why not just cut him? The cap hit wouldn't have been that large.
Those are two of the many reasons why his theory doesn't make sense. The Giants wouldn't put their coach or quarterback or team in that position - not ever, but especially not as they're making a playoff run. And really, even if management would do something like that, in the heat of the game it's impossible to imagine McAdoo or Manning following through.
The truth, which Cruz doesn't want to admit, is that at 30 years old and after two surgeries he just wasn't the same player anymore last season. He said he was "ballin'" halfway through the year. Sure, if 24 catches for 331 yards and a touchdown through seven games (at the bye week) is "ballin'". The rest of the way, through his final eight games, he added 15 catches for 225 yards. A drop off, sure, but not a huge one.
And here's an NFL scout's assessment of Cruz's general performance over the last half of last season: "He just wasn't open."
Cruz doesn't agree, even though the film - for the most part - does.
A lot of things went wrong for Cruz last season. The Giants decided rookie Sterling Shepard was a better slot receiver, so they moved Cruz to the outside where he wasn't the same dangerous player. He became a low priority for the passing attack as other players improved. Eventually, the Giants wanted to see what rookie Roger Lewis could do instead of him. And all the while, Cruz wasn't getting any better. It happens at some point to every player.
Add in the ill-fated Miami boat trip and all it amounted to was a sad ending for a terrific and popular Giant, who remains one of the best stories this franchise has ever had. Nothing that happened last year can take away from that. He should be celebrated for the entirety of his career.
But throwing management and the coach and his quarterback under an imaginary bus for no reasons, for a ridiculous theory that can be disproven with one glance at the tape … well, it's unfortunate and it certainly runs the risk of tarnishing his legacy. Just ask Tiki Barber: Giants fans don't like former players engaging in post-career feuds with their team.