Joe Judge promises the Giants will be an intense, aggressive, hard-hitting football team.
And that’s just in practice.
Judge, 38, was formally introduced as the Giants’ 19th head coach today at a news conference in MetLife Stadium. He came across as tough, disciplined and relentless, qualities he intends to impart to the team. “What I’m about,” Judge said, “is an old-school, physical mentality.”
The Giants have won just 12 games in three seasons that have dispirited their fervent fan base. But Judge, who won three Super Bowls in his eight seasons as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots, said change is coming.
“We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of, because this team will represent this area,” Judge said. “We will play fast, we will play downhill, we will play aggressive. We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play ever play like it has a history and a life of its own, with a relentless, competitive attitude. We will play fundamentally sound, we will not beat ourselves. That is our mission right here.
“I want this team to reflect this area. I want the people that pay their hard-earned money and the neighborhoods of New York, North Jersey, South Jersey, to come to our games and know that the players on the field play with the same attitude they wake up with every morning. That is blue collar, it’s hard work, it’s in your face. We’re not going to back down to anybody. We’re going to come work every day and grind it out the way they do in their jobs every day.”
The previous two Giants coaches, Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur, were former offensive coordinators who called the plays during games. Although he coached the Patriots’ receivers in 2019, Judge has been a special teams coach at the University of Alabama and New England since 2009. That gives him a broader preparation by placing him in contact with virtually every player on the roster.
The Giants players will learn quickly that Judge has high expectations and no tolerance for substandard effort, on and off the field.
“We’re going to start by showing up on time, by having a plan, for executing that plan,” Judge said. “It’s going to be fundamentals. I’ll tell you this right now, and I’m sure it’s going to come up somewhere along the line, I’m not going to be the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator, or the special teams coordinator. I’ll work with all three sides of the ball. But, the primary focus I’m going to have as the head coach, is I’m going to make sure we are fundamentally sound, we are situationally aware, and that we play with a relentless effort.”
And yes, that extends to the practice field. In recent years, the NFL’s increasing focus on player safety has forced teams to largely abandon physical practices. Twice-daily workouts are prohibited in training camp and teams limited in how many full-pad practices they can have in camp and during the season.
But Judge will conduct workouts as intense as the rules allow.
“It’s a contact sport, you can’t get around that,” Judge said. “It’s meant to be a physical game. It’s for tough people. We will practice with a physical attitude. We will practice in pads, we will practice live tackling – not to make a statement that we’re trying to be tough. We’re going to practice live tackling because I believe in doing it safely. You want to make your players safer, you start by instructing them how to do it. We’re going to work on everything we do. Everything we ask them to do at full speed on Sunday at a competitive level we’re going to make sure that we have practiced, corrected, and re-practiced before they have to do it at a live pace. There are not going to be shortcuts with what we have to do. It’s a tough division, it’s a tough division and the city is full of tough people and they expect to see a program, they expect to see a product that represents them.”
Before he took the stage, Judge greeted several of the former Giants players who attended the news conference, including Carl Banks, Justin Tuck, David Diehl, Jeff Feagles, Amani Toomer, and Rich Seubert. Except for Banks, they had all played for Tom Coughlin, a tough coach who demanded effort, excellence and punctuality. Those players remarked how similar Judge was in manner and words to Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl winner they all revere. Like Coughlin, Judge is not uncomfortable revealing his compassionate side.
“I’m about caring for the players in the locker room,” he said. “Let’s not forget there’s a human element to this game. Let’s not think that in professional sports, that paying a pay check to somebody makes it absent of empathy. We need to make sure that we take care of the players in our locker room, that we treat them the right way, that we teach them the correct techniques, and that we put them in the right situations to be successful. We’re going to ask these men to come in and give everything they have every day. We’re going to demand it, and we appreciate everything they give us. It’s our responsibility to take care of them on a daily basis and make sure that when they are done with our game, they are better furthered for the rest of their career as a father, a husband, and a professional in whatever avenue they take.”
Some other highlights of Judge’s first day on the job:
*On how he will work with general manager Dave Gettleman regarding personnel decisions:
“I couldn’t have been more excited walking in here than sitting down with Mr. Gettleman,” Judge said. “It’s been tremendous. … Being a special teams coach you have to know every player on your team inside and out because you have to know who you can use with a limited menu. It’s kind of like when you’re hungry, you go to the fridge, your Dad says figure out a way to make a sandwich. You know it’s in there, but you’ve got to find a way because you’ve got to eat. So, I’ve got to know what everybody does so I can put those ingredients together and get the most out of it. … I’m used to looking at things from a big picture perspective on players in terms of what they bring to the team as a whole. You can turn around and say, ‘How good is this guy as a running back?’ Well, there’s different kinds of running backs. I want to know what kind of athlete this man is and how we can use his toolset to our advantage.”
Gettleman said, “It’s going to be collaborative. … At the end of the day, it’s about building consensus and it’s about getting to the right place. I’ve been doing this long enough with Ron (Rivera) and then Pat (Shurmur). We’re going to get to the right place.”
*Judge’s broad strategic thoughts on offense, defense and special teams:
“Our philosophy is going to be to put pressure on the opponent to prepare for multiple things,” Judge said. “Within that, we have to have personnel versatility and we have to have flexibility schematically to make sure that whoever we play, we can adjust our game plan to maximize our strengths versus their weaknesses. So, while there may be some games that we throw the ball 50 times, there’s going to be other times we may throw it 10 times and run the ball 45 times.”
“At this moment, my priorities are pretty simple,” Judge said. “I have an outsider’s view of this team, I’ve competed against the Giants, I’ve studied this team from the outside looking in, preparing myself for this job and opportunity, but I have to make myself fluent in a language within the building. I have to study the players, I have to evaluate the current coaching staff and give everybody a fair evaluation to make sure we make the right decisions, that I have a clear vision of what the path going forward needs to be, to help these players progress the correct way.
“I do not have a staff in place. I have some names in mind, but we will talk to everybody, we will take our time. My priority is to put the right men around these players that they can come to work every day, they can be coached hard, they can be taught. I want good people. Before anything, if you’re going to work in an organization, you’re a good person. I don’t want any alternative agendas, I’m making that clear right now. There is not going to be a coach in our organization who has nothing but the best interest in the players at hand and isn’t going to come to work every day and put their butt on the line for the guys who are going to work hard for them. I want teachers, not presenters. I don’t want someone who looks fancy in front of the screen that can say it with a lot of different sales lines. I want old school people who can get to our players and give them the mental image of what it’s supposed to look like. I want them to demonstrate on a daily basis the work ethic of what it’s going to take to do it successfully day in and day out. Because over the course of six months of this season, it takes day in and day out to be successful.”
*A final word from the new coach:
“There are not going to be shortcuts with what we have to do,” Judge said. “It’s a tough division, and the city is full of tough people and they expect to see a program, they expect to see a product that represents them. I’m going to do everything in my power, every day, to make sure the people of this city and this area turn on the T.V. or sit in the stadium seats and are proud to say that we’re their New York Giants.”