The most important thing to remember in Joe Judge’s debut
This is only a first Judgment Day for Joe Judge. Let us not forget that Bill Parcells lost his home opener and Ray Handley won his. Judge has a five-year contract and an ownership starving for stability and continuity — and he will coach here for a long time, starting Monday night against the Steelers at MetLifeless Stadium.
It is a first Judgment Day for his Giants, our first glimpse of the glass-jawed team he is hellbent on picking up off the mat and teaching it how to stand tall and proud again and play and act like Giants.
Joe Judge was summoned to rescue a franchise mired in the muck of a losing syndrome that has failed to deliver a single playoff win since Super Bowl XLVI.
And look, Bill Belichick, Judge’s prominent mentor not named Nick Saban, was 5-11 in his first year with the Patriots — the year when a rookie named Tom Brady threw three passes and completed one — for six yards. As a rookie coach in Cleveland, Belichick was 5-11. As the rookie coach of the Giants, Parcells was 3-12-1. As a rookie coach with the expansion Jaguars, Tom Coughlin was 4-12.
So let’s not expect miracles just yet from Joe Judge.
Judge would have gotten a honeymoon period anyway, but his old-school, blue-collar coaching style has quickly won him the love of Giants fans who have longed for the days of a no-nonsense disciplinarian who one minute is spewing F-bombs and ordering practice to start over or Daniel Jones to run a penalty lap, and the next minute is diving in the mud to conclude a ball-security drill to the delight of his astounded players.
Judge is not Belichick, and he won’t try to be Belichick. The Giants linebackers used to call Belichick Captain Sominex because of his monotone delivery during meetings, while Judge’s rapid-fire speaking style almost forces you to stay awake and alert.
It doesn’t mean Judge is reluctant to implement tried and true Belichickian methods when he deems fit. The last thing he wants is to field a team that resembles the 2017 or 2018 or 2019 Giants. It would hardly be the worst thing in the world for Judge to demand a team that goes about its business the way the Patriots have year after year after year.
Judge and the coaching staff he hired have proven to be such eye-opening teachers that Giants players all but wonder if they’d previously been reading from some “Football for Dummies” playbook.
He is urgent — a word he uses often — in his mission to build a football-only factory in East Rutherford, N.J., an assembly line of smart, tough, versatile and fundamentally sound Giants who worship at the altar of T-E-A-M.
Judge has seamlessly weathered a pandemic storm that would have rattled lesser rookie head coaches. No OTAs at 1925 Giants Drive, no preseason games, no excuses.
He has checked all the boxes to this point. The most important box is Jones, and the nurturing by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will help him hold onto the ball and take the much-ballyhooed second-year leap. There are plenty of other boxes Judge will have to check, because a series of bad drafts that preceded GM Dave Gettleman forced Gettleman in 2017 to reluctantly tear the teetering house down and begin a rebuilding project that remains ongoing.
The players respect Judge because of his passion and love of the game and his smarts, and they like him because he cares about them. The buy-in has been stunning. Almost to a man, you hear the players parroting his get-better-every-day mantra at the expense of grandiose Super Bowl proclamations. Judge has that Parcellsian gift of knowing what makes each player tick.
The Giants have spent too much of the past decade beating themselves. Their lack of situational awareness has been galling. They have been lacking in physical and mental toughness. Their defense has caused Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks and Michael Strahan to recoil in horror. Their offensive line caused a faded Eli Manning to recoil in horror.
Now along comes a CEO of a head coach who removes the names on the back of his players’ jerseys. Who tapes tennis balls to the palms of defensive backs’ hands so they can break their holding habit. Who does not tolerate anything or anyone that deters from winning.
Judge is the third Giants head coach since Coughlin left following the 2015 season. The Giants have lost 36 of 48 games since then. First Judgment Day for Joe Judge and his Giants. The Ultimate Judgment Day will come when no one will recognize them. When they remind us of who and what the Giants used to be. Or what the Patriots have been. Of course the verdict won’t be in on Monday night. But when it is one day, everyone around the Giants is convinced there will be justice.
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