Former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho, now a sports analyst and creator of the very informative Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man video series, is intelligent, articulate, informative, and spot-on.
Most of the time that is. Acho's take on Giants head coach Joe Judge's coaching tactics that include making players who screw up run penalty laps is such a blatant whiff that Judge should call the studio and demand Acho run a lap.
Not that Judge, who is busy trying to get a Giants team that sorely underperformed last season despite having some promising young talent, would do so after Acho, who believes that people should be self-motivated to do what they have to in life to be successful would run the penalty lap.
Acho, for those who don't remember, spent about six weeks on the Giants practice squad in 2013, a team that went 1-7 during his short stay here.
While I am not suggesting that Acho was a reason for that 1-7 start when he was part of the organization, he was witness to a team that would record 107 penalties for 786 yards that season.
So for him to apologize to Giants fans for the team hiring a head coach who is seeking to put a stop to what's mostly been a decade of really bad football is not a good look.
Giants fans have, since 2013, sat through year after year of bad football, getting a reprieve in 2016, thus far the only season the team logged a winning record and a playoff berth.
That proved to be an anomaly. Giants fans who look forward to four hours of enjoyment every weekend in the fall have instead witnessed some of the sloppiest football this franchise has produced since the Wilderness Years of the 1960s and 1970s.
But let's get back to Acho's criticism of Judge for making players who screw up run sprints, an opinion also apparently shared by Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharp who expressed his doubts about Judge's chosen tactics as well.
If those who share the opinion that Judge is in the wrong to demand attention to detail had done some research, they might see that this is a Giants team that, in four out of the last five seasons, has recorded at least 90 penalties in a season.
But let's look at last year's numbers since most of the Giants on the current roster don't' go back that far. Last year's squad racked up 107 penalties for 784 yards, 21 stalled scoring drives, and 191 nullified yards.
Of those penalties, 36 were holding calls (on offense and defense), eight false starts and six neutral zone infractions, and five illegal formations.
For what it's worth, the three teams that drafted ahead of the Giants--Cincinnati, Washington, and Detroit--all had worse won-loss records and more penalties than the Giants.
Do you think that maybe there's a correlation there between playing disciplined and smart football and the won-loss record?
And if the penalties aren't enough to convince you that there was a problem last year, when was the last time the Giants offense and defense ranked in the top-10 league-wide in any of the major statistical categories commonly associated with winning football?
(Spoiler alert: It wasn't last year.)
If there's one thing we're learning about Judge, it's that "Meticulous" is his middle name.
"Everything we do has purpose, and we're very intent on explaining to our team why we're doing things we're doing. I'm a big believer in educating our team in why we're doing things that we're not just blindly out there winging it, trying to go ahead and force punishment," Judge said after the team concluded an intense and physical practice Tuesday evening.
"I explained the other day that when you make mistakes on the field, there are consequences. In the game, it's penalty yards. At practice, we have to understand there are consequences for mistakes. This isn't a punishment; it's a reminder that we have to draw our attention and be more detailed in how we approach them."
Judge is doing everything possible to ensure that these players learn what it takes to win. That means focusing on the most minute detail that many of us wouldn't even give a second thought.
And if that means having a guy run a lap because he made a mental error, then so be it.
What Judge is looking for, besides players who are looking to be coached and willing to pay attention to the smallest detail, is, in his words, "simple."
"Do your job to the best of your ability. Put the team first with every decision you make," he said. "We don't have to overcomplicate it. Put the team first and come to work every day and do what's asked to do the best they can. That's it."
"It's not easy to play this league, but it's simple," Judge added. "And that's all we're asking you to do every day."
Coach Hard, Play Hard
Judge was seen coaching star running back Saquon Barkley extra hard during Tuesday's practice, which raised some eyebrows given how hard and detailed oriented Barkley already is.
"Look, we coach everyone the same. We're trying to demand the best out of everybody and make them improve every day. We're not letting details slip," Judge said.
"We have to have guys who have thick skin and understand we have to operate in a high-pressure situation. So we can't go out there on the practice field and just sing kumbaya together and think we're at a dance."
Thus far, the players seem to be handling the high-pressure situation well, according to Judge.
"Most of the things I'm most impressed with is how coachable this team is. They come in here every day, they're looking for details to look for coaching points, and they want to improve and do better,' he said.
"They understand it's about the message, not how the message is always delivered. 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."
As if there's any doubt about Judge being an old-school football coach, on Tuesday, he had the team debut an extremely physical goal-line sequence that coaching legend Vince Lombardi used to call a nutcracker.
In this drill, a ball us placed on a large pad about five yards long underneath a crouching offensive ball carrier. When the whistle blew, the offensive player's goal was to get past the defender standing on the other end of the pad.
“Normally, there’s a shock factor when the fans watch that at first, the media sees it at first, with ‘Oh, they’re hitting?’” Judge said when asked about the drill he's used since his days at Alabama.
“I’m just putting to context what we’re trying to do on every play. We’re staying on our feet for most of practice, with the exception of a couple of live tackling drills. You have to selectively do those through training camp to get the guys ready.
“Again, we’re not doing anything out there to try to see who the toughest guy in the schoolyard is. We’re trying to get every player ready to play safely for 60 minutes against a competitor for 16 weeks.”
Throughout camp, Judge has made good on his promise to have the team practice physically and to pay attention to the details. This drill was no exception.
“We can’t get the guys ready to drive on I-95 by riding on back roads,” Judge said. “If we think the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming in here to hug us, we’re all sadly mistaken. We have to train these guys in a physical manner to make it safe to play the game the way the game’s played.”
* Giants cornerback Corey Ballentine gave everyone a bit of a scare when he collides with receiver Austin Mack during a one-on-one drill. Ballentine appeared to injure his right shoulder but refused to leave the field in a cart that had come out for him.
*Receiver Cody Core was also reported to have been carted off. Judge didn't have any updates on Core's status.
*Quarterback Colt McCoy was present for only part of the practice. Judge said McCoy was dealing with a personal issue.
*A brief skirmish reportedly broke out between rookie offensive lineman Shane Lemieux and defensive lineman R.J. McIntosh.
*The Giants will return to the practice field at 1:30 on Wednesday for an hour-long practice.
*Kicker Graham Gano's entry practice is scheduled to include Wednesday, which means he should be on the field assuming he passes his physical and has tested negative for COVID-19.
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