There is much we do not know about Joe Judge, and cannot know until the moment arrives.
Fourth-and-3 from his own 47-yard line, down by three midway through the fourth quarter. What does Judge do? Punt it away or tell Daniel Jones to get the first down? Is Judge going to play the percentages or toss the dice?
A brutal loss. Does Judge blow his stack or roll with it?
A two-game winning streak (imagine that!), can Judge keep a sense of contentment from filling the socially distanced locker room?
No one with any certainty can state, at this moment, the job, in its entirety, is not too big for Joe Judge. His won-loss record is not yet activated and that is the tabulation that matters. What can be stated, already, less than a week into the full-pads portion of his first training camp with the Giants, is that THIS part of the job is not too big for Joe Judge.
There are those in the building feeling fortunate Judge was the candidate hired at this time, feeling fortunate he is the individual entrusted with shepherding the Giants through an unprecedented concoction of COVID-19-triggered angst and uncertainty.
He is young (38) and has never been this way before, thus not set in his ways. His exacting insistence to maximize every minute on the field is what is needed now, with restrictive “ramp-up’’ speed bumps installed by the league and the players’ union.
To those wondering why Judge is the way he is, weren’t they paying attention to his résumé? Working three years for Nick Saban and the past eight for Bill Belichick either fortifies an impressionable coach or else gets him the heck out of the business. It is silly to infer Judge is a Belichick clone and use a few penalty laps and a live tackling drill as evidence.
About those penalty laps. There were five of them meted out in the first three days of practice — six if you count the two rookie linebacker Cam Brown was sent off to run. So, it is not as if every misstep gets Judge riled up. And by “run,’’ we are being kind. At times Brown looked as if he was dragging his feet in place. So, please, spare the outcry that this is some form of brutal physical expenditure.
Emmanuel Acho, the former Eagles linebacker making a name for himself in the broadcast world, is the latest to brand Judge as out of touch. “Dumb’’ and “imbecilic practices’’ were his buzzwords — from afar, of course — for Judge’s coaching style. Laps for mistakes, Acho said, are “tactics to use on kids.’’
Are these the inside thoughts of Giants players on the field with Judge? Is a revolt brewing? On the subject of revolts, there were veterans — guys who ended up as significant starters for one or two Super Bowl teams — in secret rebellion when Tom Coughlin arrived in 2004 and started in with his drill sergeant deal. Some of those veterans actually ratted Coughlin out to the NFL Players Association for going overboard during organized team activities.
Was there any outrage when Brian Flores — another former Belichick assistant — forced the Dolphins last season to run a “takes no talent wall’’ every time a mistake was made in training camp? This actually carried over into the regular season, as Flores’ team — expected to only win a game or two — won five of its last nine games and finished 29th in the league in penalties.
The Giants have more losses (36) than any team in the NFL the past three seasons. They are a young group. Sometimes it seems as if receiver Sterling Shepard just got here and yet he is the longest-tenured Giants player. There is no Giants Way right now, not until Judge completes the installation process.
However heavy-handed it might appear to be.
“They understand it’s about the message, not how the message is always delivered,’’ Judge said. “We coach hard. We’re very demanding. This is a tough job. We’re in New York City. This is a tough place to play and coach. We have to have guys who are thick-skinned and understand we have to operate in high-pressure situations. We can’t go out there on the practice field and just sing ‘Kumbaya’ together and think we’re going to advance.’’
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The live drills? No backing off now, not without a single preseason game to get some hits in.
“Listen,’’ he said, “we can’t get the guys ready to drive on I-95 by riding back roads. If we think the Pittsburgh Steelers [in the season opener] are coming in here to hug us, we’re all sadly mistaken.’’
So, for now, a little more mugging than hugging. If the Giants cannot handle this now, what can they handle later?