Victor Cruz is one of our foremost authorities on Giants versus Jets. And he will be at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night watching the beginnings of Aaron Rodgers’ journey to transform the Jets into a Super Bowl contender.
“If you look at the makeup of that team defensively, they got Quinnen Williams, they got Sauce [Gardner]they got guys all over that field from the front line all the way into the secondary,” Cruz told The Post. “And then offensively, they were just a quarterback away. So, I think they found that quarterback, at least they believe so, and we’ll see what happens this season ‘cause their schedule’s not easy.”
Cruz laughed when I asked him inside the field house, where he paid tribute to former teammate Prince Amukamara signing a one-day contract to retire as a Giant, whether Rodgers makes the Giants the Jets’ Little Brother.
“He just brings the Jets to a little bit more relevancy than they’ve had in the past; we’ll leave it at that,” Cruz said.
Rex Ryan referred to the Giants as the Jets’ Little Brother in his 2011 book, at a time when the Jets had been to back-to-back AFC Championship games. Then that season, Cruz left the Jets in disarray with his 99-yard Christmas Eve catch-and-run TD that ignited the Giants’ most recent Super Bowl run.
Rodgers ending the franchise’s 55-year Super Bowl drought would be certain to allow the Jets to paint the town green and white, and turn it into a Jets Town … only temporarily.
“I think the Giants are rooted too deeply around these parts,” Cruz said. He looked up at two of the four Super Bowl banners on the wall and said: “I think these couple of Super Bowl trophies, you see ’em here in the past 15, 20 years kind of say something, so … we’ll see how it unfolds with Aaron Rodgers at the helm these next couple of years.
“But this’ll be a Giants Town forever.”
Cruz is confident that Rodgers will get a warm welcome from Jets fans who will attempt to make Rodgers feel at home at a Giants home game.
“I expect an ovation,” Cruz said.
Cruz turns 37 on Nov. 11, which means he is nearly three years younger than Rodgers, who turns 40 on Dec. 2.
“You get a guy like Aaron Rodgers, it just raises everybody’s level of play, raises the expectations, and with that, it’s sink or swim almost,” Cruz said, “like the good guys are gonna rise to the top and you’re gonna see what you have, and the guys that can’t handle it are gonna fall to the wayside.”
Cruz believes swim is the favorite over sink. “Teams are giving him motivation, Sean Payton saying things — those are things, Aaron Rodgers thrives on that, he loves that stuff,” Cruz said, “so I think the team is just gonna embody that energy, and it’s gonna pay dividends for them, I don’t know to what extent, obviously, or what success looks like for them.”
But he does know the stress Rodgers puts on the opponents’ quarterback and offense.
“You knew you had to come with your ‘A’ game,” Cruz said. “You knew you had to put up as many points as possible.”
Cruz, like everyone else, is a Garrett Wilson fan. “I just like that he’s fearless,” Cruz said. “He reminds me of Odell [Beckham Jr.] when he first came here. He’s not afraid to dive for the ball, make every catch, make every route, like he’s not afraid to go up and go get it. It youth-enizes Aaron Rodgers when he sees a guy like that, ’cause he’s like, ‘I can throw this anywhere in his catch radius and he’s gonna try his best to come down with it.’ ”
Cruz likes the 2023 Giants.
“I’m excited about the trajectory of this team,” he said. “I think we’re deep and competitive at every spot. And I think Daniel Jones is at the helm, and he’s feeling more comfortable than ever.”
He is heartened by former teammate Sterling Shepard’s comeback from a torn Achilles.
“I think he’s kind of the heartbeat of this team, especially that receiving corps,” Cruz said. “A guy that these young kids like Jalin Hyatt can learn from, not just on the field, but how to conduct yourself and be a receiver, and be a professional. It’s almost funny to see him here, but happy he made it.”
Darren Waller? “Just a baller,” Cruz said. “I think he’s a guy that can create a mismatch everywhere on that football field. The connection between him and Daniel Jones this year is gonna determine how far this team goes.”
It never gets old for Cruz hearing about his season-altering 99-yarder. “It’s either A) how they won so much off of it and they’re like excited and happy and their families were elated when it happened, or the other side of it if they were Jet fans and it was like, ‘Man, you ruined my Christmas Eve, you ruined my holiday and I hate you for that but I love you as a person,’ ” Cruz said, and smiled.
It was against the Jets in the 2010 preseason when the long-shot free agent rookie from Paterson, N.J., and UMass caught three TD passes and made the team. “I was excited to kinda prove myself against other opponents,” Cruz said, “and especially around guys that had never heard of me so they couldn’t get a bead on who I was and what I do well.”
Ah, memories. “Every time I pull up to that stadium and I see it, it gives me goose bumps like I’m still playing, it gives me goose bumps like I’m preparing for a game,” Cruz said. “So now I’m in the streets and I gotta hear it all, so I like to go to the good ones and hopefully we win so I got some bragging rights.”
Giants Town. Until Aaron Rodgers proves otherwise.
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