As far as contributing to building a unified force, it’s part of the job responsibility for each player to do whatever it takes to participate in offseason drills, scheduled team workouts and activities. No matter how good of a player may be, walking onto a team at the last minute, after all of the practice has happened, after all of the planning and preparation is in the rearview mirror, after all of the connections are made between the new and old players, and the choreography is set… you are likely to break the cohesiveness of the unit, and it could effect the entire team. I also believe that during the season, it’s important that TEAM comes first, and while I don’t think ALL off-the-field business dealings should be curtailed (family, community giving and some other life-defining activities are important and not to be forgotten), there should be limits, and they should never get in the way of giving everything it takes to achieve the goal – in the case of football, each week it’s about achieving the W, and each season, the championship title.
To illustrate, lets look at my business in sales in the high pressure Silicon Valley. If I had to lead a meeting with a huge and important global account to land a multi-million dollar deal for my company; one that required weeks or even months of advanced planning and preparation with a team of contributors… and one of those contributors decided not to show up for any of the prep meetings… how could I know if he is going to be walking into that meeting on the same page as the rest of my team, for our one day to shine with this customer? Would the outcome be different and better if he did show up for the prep meetings with the rest of the team? Is that a risk worth taking? Will it cost me the deal I’ve worked so hard for?
Last season I began to have some questions – as it related to our beloved Victor Cruz. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, what he has delivered to the Giants organization and to his community, and I see the amazing on and off field potential he brings. But we had a guy named Tiki once who had a similar on and off field potential to go as far as he could imagine. We also had a guy named Mike (Strahan) who also fit this mold. Tiki made certain choices. Mike made others. We know that one of them continues to fly as high as the moon – and hopefully next year into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The other is trying desperately to pull himself back up. My point here? While Victor Cruz clearly has all the qualities that can make him a star during his football career and afterward, I am concerned he may be showing a few chinks in the shiny armor.
By the way, my intent is not to single out Victor Cruz here. Again – huge potential on and off the field. There are other players who I believe contributed more to the lack of unity we saw in the 2012 team. But since Cruz is such a topic of conversation, I can’t help but focus on him. I do believe he continues to make mostly solid choices in his public communication – it’s really the media that translates things in such a way that makes us question his intentions. Believe me, there are players in recent history that I can single out as having made some very poor and public communication choices – Victor isn’t really one of them. I do, however, believe that some of the extracurricular activity that has come along with Victor’s success and celebrity, has gotten in the way of team focus – and that needs to be more in check.
I think as OTAs begin, it’s so important to Victor to be with his team at the Timex, demonstrating leadership and knowledge to the newbies, and working with Eli and all of the other players to make sure we’re ready to go into camp as one unified front (working to become one Giants personality, not many individual personalities as we enter the season). Lets not forget – he could also use the work to make sure the dropped balls of last year as a thing of the past. He could stand to practice with Hakeem back in full gear, and the other WRs, so that opposing teams are challenged figure out who to double cover. He could contribute to the defensive backs when they’re practicing how to cover some of the best receivers in the league. He can contribute to Eli’s practice, to the practice of the new tight ends that will certainly be playing a role in the passing game….
It’s fairly easy to make comparisons to teams that have not found a way to act as one cohesive unit. Just look at the bottom of the standings. Were these teams missing key pieces in their communication with one another? Were individual egos flying high? Were there breakdowns in the hard-to-measure, interpersonal relationships built in the locker room? Did the leadership seem to be acting from different playbooks instead of seeing eye to eye? Was everyone out for their own selves, instead of playing the best possible game for the benefit of the other guy in the huddle? These are all key questions to ask. I venture to suggest that with championship teams, the answers to these questions will be ‘no’. Where the answer is yes – it’s important to take a deep look in the mirror at where shifts can be made, or you may risk becoming the 2012 New York Jets (who I am pretty sure could answer yes to all of the above).
Now I’m not saying team cohesiveness is EVERYTHING. I am saying it’s one of the hardest to measure, and at the same time ONE of the most important attributes of becoming a championship team. And it’s not to say it can’t be achieved if a key guy is holding out and then shows up at the last minute – adversity comes and goes and great teams have to figure out how to deal with it. But why make it harder on everyone else by not being there 100% committed to playing your role?
So Victor, it seems to me you have not only a significant amount of money being offered by the Giants organization, but you are YOU. And playing in New York, the most visible city in the world, if you keep being the YOU we have seen, and you show up 100% committed to the team’s success, there is no question in my mind that many more dollars, above and beyond what your player contract says, will come – through sponsorships and auxiliary business opportunities. And if you’re there, ALL IN, and helping to build that cohesive unit called THE New York Football Giants, the likelihood of winning another championship is that much higher. And players like YOU who win championships… well, your opportunity beyond football skyrockets.
Something to think about.
Hope to see Victor Cruz at OTAs.