Just five years after their last Super Bowl run, three members of what was an outstanding New York Giants receiving corps are nowhere to be found.
In February of 2012, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham helped the New York Giants win their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. Five years later, neither of them are on the team after the Giants cutting Cruz on Monday, and if nobody picks him up, they’ll all be out of the league.
No one could have foreseen that these three men would be out of the league before they turned 31, especially since they had a combined 197 receptions and 20 touchdowns, and helped Eli Manning throw for a career-high 4,933 yards.
This is another sad reminder that sometimes the NFL does stand for “Not For Long,” as all three had their careers derailed because of injury.
Following the 2012 Super Bowl, Mario Manningham left via free agency and signed a two-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers. He had 42 receptions for 449 yards and a touchdown in 12 games before tearing his ACL. He was limited to just nine receptions in 2013 before being out on injured reserve.
The then-27-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Giants in 2014 but strained his calf in the preseason and was released shortly after.
Hakeem Nicks would suffer a similar fate as Manningham. He would re-injure his foot in 2012’s Week 2 win over the Tampa Buccaneers — a game in which he had a career-high 199 receiving yards. He would miss the next three games before coming back, but he was never the same player.
Nicks finished the season with 53 receptions for 692 yards and three touchdowns. In 2015 he played in 15 games and had 56 receptions for 896 yards but failed to find the end zone.
In 2014 he signed a year deal with the Indianapolis Colts where he had 38 receptions for 405 yards and four touchdowns. He then signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans in April of 2015, but was released before the start of the season.
The Giants signed him to a one year deal in November but he was ineffective catching just seven passes for 54 yards in six games.
Victor Cruz became one of the most popular players in the league during his breakout 2011 season. His salsa dancing after scoring touchdowns and charisma made him one of the most recognizable athletes off the field.
He was on pace to becoming an all-time great New York Giant after being named second team All-Pro in 2011 and a Pro Bowler in 2012. From 2011 to 2013 he had 241 receptions for 3,626 yards and 23 touchdowns.
But then Cruz’s Cinderella story came crashing down. He tore his patella tendon in Week 6 of the 2014 season and missed all of the following year with a calf injury. He was finally able to get back in 2016 but was clearly not the player he used to be. He had just 39 receptions in 15 games and one touchdown which led to the Giants cutting him.
It’s possible the Giants or another team could pick up Cruz at a reduced price, but considering that the salsa dancer is no better than a third receiving option that does not have breakaway speed or the ability play special teams, the odds are stacked against him.
Cruz, Nicks and Manningham will always be beloved Giants because they helped bring home a Super Bowl title. They are also the best trio of receivers the Giants ever had. They’ll be honored at the 10 and 25 year anniversaries of the 2012 Super Bowl, and Cruz has a possibility of being selected into the Giants’ Ring of Honor.
It’s just a shame that their careers were hampered just as they were hitting the peaks of their careers.