Oct 21, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; NFL Hall Of famer Jerry Rice attends the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Cruz: Advice from Jerry Rice on the WCO

Jerry Rice: Advice

Alright, we get it. You’re probably thinking, why the heck is Jerry Rice on a New York Giants site? No one cares about Jerry Rice in Giants Nation…

Well, who knows if that’s even true (many love the GOAT), but Jerry Rice is the subject today because he’s offering up West Coast Offense advice to your “Salsa Dancing Hero”, Victor Cruz. And no matter who you are, when Jerry Rice talks about the art of being a receiver in the WCO, you take notes.

Over at The Record, that’s exactly what Art Stapleton did as he wrote this great piece titled, NFL: Hall of Famer likes Giants’ new offense. Despite the teaser title, Art is talking about Jerry Rice. Here’s a tweet that he sent out containing the quotes from the best ever:

“There are going to be growing pains in this offense,” Rice said. “The players are going to start feeling their chemistry, though. It’s going to become automatic. It’s going to be like, ‘OK, how does Eli anticipate throwing that pass before Victor Cruz comes out of his route?’ All the stuff comes together through practice and repetition over and over on the field. It could happen before the first regular-season game, it could happen Week 5, but they’re gonna know when that chemistry is there and from that point on, they’re just gonna go out and play.”
“The players are going to feel more comfortable with everything in time: the offensive line, running backs, receivers, obviously the quarterback,” Rice said. “You’re gonna know when you are ready to go out there and dominate the opponent, that there’s no way a defense can shut you down. It takes time, but when it clicks, you can dictate what you want to do to that defense, and I see Victor Cruz becoming one of those guys.”
“He’s a young puppy and this new wrinkle is really gonna open up the offense for him because of his versatility,” Rice said. “I always thought the West Coast gave you the opportunity to just be creative – it’s like your own playground because you don’t have too much thinking. You can just go out and play.”

Jerry Rice: Translation

Hold on, let me get out my Jerry Rice to English handbook… not because you can’t understand him, but because Jerry Rice is one of the smoothest, most soft spoken nice guys of all-time. Everything is cool with Jerry, every situation is something to smile about. In other words, Jerry Rice is an extremely positive guy.
Reading his words with the West Coast Offense in mind, understand this, Giants Nation — the WCO is a timing based system. On any given play, a receiver like Victor Cruz has route options, based on the defense and quarterback audible. If Victor Cruz knows the playbook, audibles and weaknesses in the defense, he can go into motion before the snap lining up in a designated route.

When the QB sees this, or often times, commands this (in theory from practiced repetition), he’ll know exactly where the receiver will break on his route and throw the ball to a predetermined area. Occasionally, some fans “may” get a little confused when they hear “Timing Based” routes mixed with Jerry Rice saying “Creativity”. After all, how can you be creative if everything is predetermined? Hence the brilliance of Bill Walsh and the WCO scheme.
On any given play the Giants have (in WCO theory) five routes being run, three of these routes might be designed blocking routes, or screens from the backfield, they might all go deep, they might cross, curl… but the motions before a play, or the snap count, QB call dictate the routes that are run. There is a reason that WCO QB’s are called game managers and it’s not only about talent. For instance, there may be 8 different variations of “Red Right” and 5 different route versions of “Trips Right” with little terms like “Motion Y” or “Short” or “Counter Motion” mixed in at the beginning or end.
It’s up to receivers like Cruz to know every route without hesitation and be on a wavelength with their QB. When successful, West Coast offense QB’s look like the most accurate passers in the league (Joe Montana, Steve Young, Aaron Rodgers), but it’s really by design to have short, safe and manageable throws with plays designed to achieve a certain amount of yards versus going for the big heave every passing opportunity.
In this offense, the QB’s quite literally manage the game. The coach maybe calling the plays, but the QB decides calls for the ball, sets the offense and needs to have all the throws memorized like second nature before every play. This is why the Giants offense currently looks like garbage… as they have no rhythm under Eli Manning, yet. Their chemistry is all over the place from preseason position shuffling and like Jerry Rice said, it takes time before it clicks and then — it’s on.

For Eli Manning and Victor Cruz, this is akin to becoming really good at texting on a flip phone and then switching to a completely different style of smartphone with a touchscreen. Sure, it’s the same general idea, but it takes awhile to get your speed back. Then one day, if you try to pick up the old phone, it will be just as challenging. That’s just how habits work, and the saying is “old habits die-hard”, because it’s true.
When Jerry Rice says he thinks Victor Cruz can be a great receiver in this offense, understand that’s not just talk… Jerry Rice understands this offense as well as anyone alive. And what we know about Cruz is that he’s lighting quick, has Velcro hands and makes the impossible catch look routine. If the Giant superstar can memorize the routes and utilize Jerry’s patience in picking his burst with precision in timing based drift, break and speed routes — he’ll have a monster year. Just like Jerry Rice predicts…
That said, here’s Victor Cruz’s first Salsa Dance. This year, he’ll do his first official WCO Salsa, something even the incomparable Jerry Rice didn’t even accomplish within the scheme:

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