Victor Cruz is going to bat for his former quarterback ... 'cause the ex-Giants WR says Jerry Rice is absolutely INSANE for saying Eli Manning isn't a Hall of Famer.
"Jerry Rice is outta his mind. You hear me??" Cruz tells TMZ Sports ... "I'll look right in the camera -- Jerry Rice, you're outta your mind, sir."
As we previously reported ... Jerry said he doesn't think Eli belongs in the Hall -- saying the NY quarterback just ain't good enough to get in.
Cruz has a serious bone to pick with that hot take ... saying Manning's two Super Bowl rings ALONE put him squarely among the NFL's legends.
"He's definitely a Hall of Famer. Are you kidding me?! What are you talking about, Jerry?? C'mon man, you know better than this!"
We also asked Cruz for his Super Bowl pick ... and no, he doesn't think Eli's gettin' a third ring this season -- but he says another legendary QB will get his 2nd!