Joe Judge will be on the sidelines as a head coach for the first time in his career on Monday night. But before his Giants play host to the Steelers, he sat down for a little question-and-answer with The Post’s Steve Serby.
Q: From the time you were hired, what coaches or people have you used as resources?
A: Well, I’ve used everyone in my own personal network as a resource. I’ve gone from Coach [Bill] Belichick and Coach [Nick] Saban, people that I’ve known throughout the business — whether it be Mike Vrabel, Matt Patricia, Brian Flores, the guys that have gone through similar experiences to myself. I’ve called the other young coaches in the league, guys that have gone through their first year within the last couple of years. And then as well, I’ve reached out to all the former Giants coaches, you have Coach [Bill] Parcells and Coach [Tom] Coughlin, and really kind of lean on them a little bit in terms of this area and what are the things I should be aware of as the head coach here.
Q: What did Coach Coughlin tell you about coaching in this area?
A: Just the respect he had for the area and how special a place it is. There were a lot of things on the phone call that I’ll keep between me and him, but you could feel the passion in his voice when he talked about the area.
Q: And how about Coach Parcells?
A: Same thing. Both guys, I’ll let them speak for themselves, but obviously I could pick up on how special a place it was for each one of them, and obviously the care they had for the organization, people willing to help me going forward, and making my start here.
Q: What do you know about late owner Wellington Mara?
A: The Duke? I know he was very instrumental in the formation of our league, on decisions he made that allowed football to nationally take off as a professional sport, and the benefits we have as a league right now are directly because of his actions of making sure that the revenue sharing went across the league and allowed other teams to have success professionally and bloom in the league.
Q: Who are the people you might be thinking about on opening night?
A: I think someone I always think about before the game obviously is my father, he was always the last phone call, the last conversation I had before any game in my life before he passed away, so even the last couple of years where he’s been gone, I think every game there’s at least a thought before I take the field, what that conversation would have been.
Q: What do you like best about Daniel Jones?
A: I can’t give you one thing, I like a whole lot about him. He’s a pleasure to work with. I love the way he’s matured on the field. I love the way he’s matured personality-wise and as a leader on our team. He was voted captain for a reason. He is a pleasure to work with on a daily basis.
Q: When you played high school quarterback, did you see some of the same things in Daniel that reminds you of you?
A: (Laugh) He’s a starting quarterback in the NFL, he’s a whole lot better than I ever was.
Q: I know that, but I mean leadership-wise.
A: I think there’s similarities to anyone who loves football, and I think we both share that love for the game which comes out in how we work every day.
Q: Your other captains: Dalvin Tomlinson?
A: Leadership, commitment to the team. I think that really kind of goes across the board for all of them, but Dalvin’s a very intelligent person. You can see he takes his time and gathers his thoughts before giving a response. He’s very insightful, and he has everyone’s respect — coaches and players.
Q: Nate Ebner?
A: Nate’s an experienced player, brings a lot of knowledge from what he’s done on the field. For a guy who has a little bit quiet nature, he’s one of the best communicators I’ve ever been around. In meetings and on the field, he gets everybody involved and keeps everybody alert.
Q: Jabrill Peppers?
A: Passion. He’s a ball of energy. I’m really proud to be able to say that he’s on our team. I just love watching him play because he loves football.
Q: Saquon Barkley?
A: His work ethic is tremendous. And I think there’s a lot of things with being a guy who’s got his level of ability, he definitely doesn’t take it for granted, he definitely works every day, and he maximizes everything that he’s been given.
Q: Blake Martinez?
A: Very smart. Again like Nate, he’s a very good communicator, he’s a guy that gets everybody involved, and he’s a great team player. I think that’s probably something that stuck out with our players early on is that he’s a guy who involves everyone on the team in everything we’re doing, and whether it’s meetings or on the field, he’s got a great passion for the game and he’s got a great ability to get others involved with him.
Q: A couple of other players: Andrew Thomas?
A: I love the way Andrew’s worked so far. Obviously he’s under a great challenge this week, going against the matchups he’s gonna have. But he’s a guy that comes in every day and he puts in a full day’s worth of work. Doesn’t say a whole lot unless asked, but he’s a real upbeat personality that when you get him going, it really comes out fast.
Q: Lorenzo Carter?
A: Got a lot of versatility. ’Zo’s a guy that’s played a variety of positions. And he’s fun to be around. He’s always smiling, he’s got great eyes, very observant, very attentive in meetings. He’s always listening, he’s always learning from others’ experiences as well. He brings a lot to our team in terms of how he works on and off the field, the energy he brings. But then also positional value, how he can be a factor in different spots in our packages.
Q: From the start of training camp until now, where has your team made the biggest leap?
A: I think in all areas. They’ve done a good job every day of coming in and being urgent and being focused and making gains in every area of the program, and that’s important.
Q: Do you think it’s an advantage having a young team as far as fourth-quarter conditioning?
A: No, I’ve been on young teams before and I’ve been on old teams before. As a young team, you have to know that you have young legs, but I’ve been on teams where we had an older veteran team, we ran circles around opponents, so to me it goes into who prepares the best through the conditioning.
Q: What do you sense hunger-wise from this team?
A: I think the way they’ve worked for us on a daily basis has demonstrated the commitment to the team, and their commitment to excellence.
Q: How about New York Giants pride?
A: Well actually, we see it in all of our players every day with the way they work. If you have pride in this organization, if you have pride in this area, you have pride being a member of this community, then you come to work every day and you give it 100 percent, and I’ve seen this from the players.
Q: What do you recall about opening day last year, a Patriots home rout of the Steelers?
A: Hey listen, it’s opening day, and you’re going out there trying to have a clean operation as a team. Obviously I remember a lot of excitement. I remember a lot of energy, and you’re in front of a lot of new players getting their first chance to go out there for a regular-season game and trying to help guide them through it.
Q: Do you remember the very first game you coached at MetLife?
A: You know what, I do. It was a preseason game against the Giants (laugh), I remember it distinctly. It’s a beautiful stadium, that kind of stuck out to me right away as far as the size, just the way it’s shaped. It’s a great, classy shape. At the time, I was working with special teams. The first thing that stuck out to me was that’s a very favorable stadium for specialists in terms of the way the wind pattern is, and the way the wind gets going. But I really enjoyed playing here.
Q: What COVID-19 precautions do you take when you leave the building?
A: Well, I think we all have to be very responsible in terms of what we do when we’re outside the building. I think the inside of the building is the safe space. To me, it’s when you leave the building, knowing who you surround yourself with. The sacrifices that all these players’ families and coaches’ families are making to allow this season to happen are tremendous. I don’t think that’s something that should go under the radar, I think it’s something that people need to take note of. … We’re not gonna have fans at our stadium, that means our families can’t be there. My wife and children, the players’ wives and children, they’ve put a lot in to enable us to be able to do what we love and support us from home. And that’s something that the fans will never get a chance to see. But their involvement in this game is heavy, the emotional connection they have to what happens on the field, because it directly affects their livelihood. … To me, it’s the sacrifices they’re making, and where they’re going, who they’re hanging around, really stretching out for the team. I think that’s something people need to really understand and recognize that the people behind the scenes are very, very important. There’s a reason when people have success in the Super Bowls, the families come on the field. Even though you go out there the entire season with your team, with the teammates and the coaches — you’re looking for your family, because they’re every bit a part of this team, have gone through the ups and downs and the struggles, so to me the family is in the background right now. I think there needs to be a lot of credit given to them because they’re doing a lot of things to make this season happen that maybe the fans aren’t aware of.
Q: What would you want to say about the first responders in New York who were under the gun when the pandemic began in March and April?
A: Just point blank, I have respect and appreciation for everybody that comes to our help when we need it. I can’t ask for someone’s help and have them show up and not appreciate them in times where I don’t need their help. Look, obviously we’re dealing with a lot of things, we’re talking through a lot of conversations as a team, as a society, but there’s a lot of appreciation that’s never changed for me in any way.
Q: How have your discussions with your team about social change gone lately?
A: Very good, very productive. We have a culture in this building where we’re open and we’re honest with each other, we look each other in the eye and we’re able to tell each other what we’re thinking. We have the ability to put our feelings aside, and to respect everybody else’s viewpoints and move forward as a team. I think one of the best things about being on a team like this is we understand everybody comes from different backgrounds, everybody has a different story, and that’s what makes us stronger, that’s what makes it unique to be in this profession, this kind of a team. We have to understand that the differences are what make us unique and what make us special.
Q: What is so neat about being head coach of the New York Football Giants?
A: It’s special having the opportunity to come to work for such a storied franchise every day, and being able to represent this area and work with a crew of great players.
Q: Your message to New York Giants fans.
A: We appreciate everything they’re doing. We understand that right now they can’t be at the games. I can assure them that they’re every bit a part of this game. We want them there as soon as possible, and as soon as the gates are opened up for us and some of the stuff clears up, we can’t wait to hear them in the stands with us. And in the meantime, we’re gonna do everything we can to make them proud, to put on a Giants hat, a Giants sweatshirt, and know that what they’re supporting represents how they work on a daily basis with their blue-collar mentality.
Q: And where will the more famous of the two family dogs, Abby Judge, be watching the game?
A: I’m sure she’s gonna be either hooked up on the couch or sleeping at the foot of my bed, one of the two.
Q: Is this a fun job?
A: Absolutely. I get to wake up every day and coach the New York Giants. That’s not work at all.
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