If it’s not crystal clear by now, New York Giants head coach Joe Judge doesn’t have time or patience or a place for “me-first” individuals within the organization.
That was Judge’s initial message when he was hired more than a year ago and one that he had to reinforce when he dismissed offensive line coach Marc Colombo after Colombo reportedly took exception to having to work with a consultant.
He also delivered a strong message to now-former receiver Golden Tate after Tate's childish outburst on Monday Night Football about wanting the ball more. Judge demoted Tate from the starting lineup and de-activated him before a big division game against Washington.
More recently, Judge drove home that point again when Kelvin Benjamin, a player attempting a comeback after a two-year absence, decided to ignore the staff’s request to drop weight before camp.
No, Judge isn’t playing around, but he’s also not an unforgiving dictator who purposely goes out of his way to humiliate anyone that doesn’t toe the line.
“He’s very intense, but I feel like he prepares us each and every day for the game,” defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence said. “That’s his mindset, and it helps, and it works.
“We’re not just practicing to practice, we call it training, so that’s exciting because when you’re training, you’re getting better. So the mindset he sets for the team, and he wants for the team is good.”
“The biggest thing I appreciate about Joe is how he always kept the picture going forward,” said tight end Evan Engram, who has the head coach firmly in his corner despite a rocky season last year. “We started rough last year, and each week you couldn’t tell it from him and his expectations and his energy towards that.
“He could see it in our eyes as well. Just his energy, his standard and the way he holds his standard up for himself and the way he holds us to the standard that he’s created for this program, I respect it a lot.”
As demanding Judge is of players and coaches, he also is quick to show a softer, human side. Last year he cut receiver Derrick Dillon—but not before the deadline for Dillon to collect a paycheck had passed—so that Dillon could return home for a week to spend time with his newborn child.
He also offered to allow defensive back Logan Ryan to take leave late in the season after Ryan’s wife had emergency surgery for a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
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“You can strap up your helmet and go to war for a coach like that,” Engram said of Judge’s approach.
Cornerback James Bradberry, who earned his first Pro Bowl season last year, said that Judge’s approach to football had given him a new perspective on the game.
“The biggest thing I learned from Coach Judge was just how the whole team works together,” Bradberry said. “I play defense, so naturally, I tend to not pay attention to what the offense is doing or what special teams is doing.
“But him being our head coach, you know, he forces us to pay attention to everything that goes into the game. He always talks about situations—that's football in general, everything is situational—and I learned a lot from that.
While the majority of the team understands and appreciates Judge’s ways, including his commitment to being transparent in the how and the why behind everything he asks of them, Judge’s way isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, as evident by the unfortunate spats he encountered in his first year-plus on the job.
But unlike those who have incurred the wrath of Judge because they failed to put the team first, there have been instances where Judge has granted the players what they want.
For those who don't know, Judge frequently solicits input from his leadership council on team-related decisions. Last year he incorporated the feedback from his team leaders in scheduling West Coast trips, selecting community organizations to support, and other internal matters.
“I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like him,” said Lawrence. “He relates to guys. He listens to us. He respects us and we respect him.”
“I think Coach Judge is tough, but you know, football is tough,” said Bradberry. “It's a lot of pressure of being in our shoes, so I don't expect him to give us our way all the time.
“You know, I tell coach, that's how you build, structure; that's how you build discipline, and that's what we're doing here. But it ain't for everybody.”
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