Joe Judge Promises a Winning Culture Built on Fundamentals
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- To illustrate just how excited the New York Giants are about new head coach Joe Judge, they held his introductory press conference in the glitzy Coach’s Club within MetLife Stadium instead of the auditorium in the team’s headquarters on the other side of the parking lot.
So how did the 38-year-old Judge handle his first exposure to the New York media in his first opportunity as a head coach at any level?
Some will say winning the press conference ultimately means nothing and let’s wait until we see what kind of product he puts on the field, but the initial reviews of Judge, the type of program he wants to run and his core beliefs on what it takes to resurrect a Giants franchise that has been left for dead are encouraging.
Judge was pointed, direct, engaging, and well-spoken during his 30-minute introduction. He handled each question with courtesy--including one leftover question regarding the Patriots strategy in their wild card loss last week that found its way into the mix.
But overall, it’s easy to see why the Giants were so impressed with Judge and his presentation, the highlights of which were shared in his introductory press conference.
He’s going to be a CEO type of head coach.
Judge will have an offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and a special teams coordinator to handle schemes and game-planning each week. As head coach, he plans to flutter around to monitor the progress of each unit while keeping an eye on the bigger picture.
“The primary focus I’m going to have as a head coach is, I’m going to make sure we are fundamentally sound,” he said.
That also means making sure that the game plan is diverse enough and that it has room for adjustments to be made if the unexpected pops up.
It also means that Judge should be better able to manage the game clock and all the in-game management decisions that his two predecessors seemed to screw up every week that would end up costing the Giants in some way.
In his opening statements, Judge, no doubt aware that there are people out there who wonder who he is, tried to answer that question.
“What I’m about is an old-school physical mentality. We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region will be proud of because this team will represent this area," he said. "We will play fast; we’ll play downhill, we’ll play aggressive, we’ll punch you in the nose for 60 minutes.”
If you’re a Giants fan who misses the old-school mentality of Bill Parcells or Tom Coughlin, or if you were hoping that Bill Belichick, Judge’s former boss, might find his way down to East Rutherford to salvage the franchise, it sounds like you’re going to like Judge if he delivers on this old-school mentality.
Here’s why he might deliver on that mentality. Judge is a coach who believes in practicing in pads, taking full advantage of what the CBA rules allow and not backing out of it later in the season or because his guys are banged up.
He also spoke about the fundamentals, such as practicing tackling, again within the rules of the CBA, and doing other little things that lay the foundation for winning football teams.
“The margin of error of this league is too small,” he said. “You cannot get by with some magic scheme or new gimmicks where you reinvent the wheel. The same things that have always won football games: it’s fundamentals.”
And that’s something Giants fans can expect him to harp on as Judge and his soon-to-be determined staff begin laying a new foundation.
What about practicing live tackling, which is something Judge also promised?
Again it comes back to fundamentals. Football is a violent game, and if a player isn’t taught how to tackle correctly, chances are he’s going to end up injured in some way.
You look at all the concussion issues the Giants have had throughout the years, and wonder how many of them could have been avoided had a more significant emphasis been put on teaching live tackling properly?
It will be interesting to see if the number of head and neck injuries the Giants have suffered these last few years drop once Judge and his assistants start addressing this.
He’s not scheme specific.
To be clear, the Giants under Judge will have some core philosophies behind their Xs and Os. But they won’t necessarily be married to those philosophies to where it’s the system or bust.
A common problem with the previous coaching staff was how often they spoke about players who “knew the system.” The problem with that thinking is that if you don’t have all the pieces, you need to run the system as it’s drawn up, and you can’t adjust, you’re going to fail spectacularly.
That’s what happened with McAdoo, who knew one system and was unable to adjust to injuries and other obstacles thrown in his face.
That’s also what happened with defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who was given a lot of former Cardinals players from his successful Arizona defenses only to fail to replicate that success with the Giants.
Former Giants defensive captain Jonathan Casillas once said that when he got to New England after being traded, he didn’t get a playbook; instead, he got a game plan that changed every week.
What does that mean for the Giants moving forward? It means that rather than focus on a player or two every week to carry the load, its’ truly going to be a by-committee approach, which should make it harder for opposing coaches to game plan against.
“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 vs. their weaknesses. So while there may be some games that we throw the ball 50 times and then the other times we may throw 10 times."
Teaching is going to be a huge priority for his staff.
This should come as absolutely no surprise given Judge’s educational background—he has been pursuing a Ph.D. degree in education, and his mother is a school principal in the Philadelphia area.
While coaches are by nature teachers, some are better at it than others. Judge pointed out that some presenters or salesmen stand there in front of a screen and present a point but don’t drive home the importance of what they’re saying with conviction, nor do they explain the “why” behind what’s being taught.
And that’s what he doesn’t want for his staff.
“I want teachers. 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,” he said. “And I want them to demonstrate on a daily basis the work ethic of what it’s gonna take to do it successfully day in and day out.”
That approach is no doubt appealing, considering they have a very young roster who last year looked dazed and confused, especially on defense.
That the Giants continued to have breakdowns across the board as late as Week 17 was a damning statement against the former staff and a big reason why Pat Shurmur and his staff are no longer tasked with developing this roster.
He’s only concerned about one type of culture.
Culture has been a big buzzword around the Giants organization of late, particularly from general manager Dave Gettleman and Shurmur, who perhaps in retrospect cleaned out the locker room a little too quickly of talent in the name of culture.
While it’s not clear how much say Judge is going to have about personnel—Gettleman, in comments made to reporters after Judge spoke, said that it would be a “collaborative process”—Judge is only concerned about one type of culture and one type alone.
“The only culture we’re going to have in that building period is a winning culture," Judge said. "So what that means is everybody comes to work every day regardless of how they feel. It puts the team first, period. Whatever you have going on outside of the building—you’re sick, in pain, you’re in a little bit of discomfort, you’re mad—you put all that aside. You come in and put the team first.”
Again, at times it seemed like in the past, the Giants put too much of an emphasis on filling the locker room with choir boys.
While that’s a nice goal to aim for, to go back to something Gettleman said at the combine last year about weighing a guy’s talents and contributions against how big of a pain in the neck he is, requires a bit of a balancing act that Judge appears willing to consider so long as the players put aside any external issues and show up ready to ball out on Sunday.