On the day he was introduced as the head coach of the New York Football Giants, Joe Judge vowed he would deliver a team that would punch the opponent in the nose for 60 minutes.
Four days from facing the rough and tough Steelers, four days from opening night, four days from the fulfillment of his head coaching dream, Mount Judge erupted.
Because his vision of what he demands his New York Giants to be — smart, tough, fundamentally sound — he did not see.
So the rookie coach stopped the music and punched his Giants in the nose with F-bombs flying after stretching and individual drills for what must have seemed to them like 60 minutes.
He started practice over. Starting with the stretching.
Because what he began to witness was not a team he wanted to represent the blue-collar people of the metropolitan area.
But remember this about Judge: He has illustrated a Parcellsian knack for recognizing and understanding what makes each player tick. Just because he professes love for these players doesn’t mean he won’t be reluctant to mete out tough love when he sees fit.
After three years of lousy, losing football, Judge has been embraced by his players as more than a demanding disciplinarian. They have grown to appreciate that he cares for them as people as well. As well as his knowledge of the game and his ability to teach it and his honesty.
So when Saquon Barkley was asked about Judge starting practice over, he said, “Love it. I love it. Everything we do is gonna have purpose behind it. Coach didn’t like how we started off, so we started over, and as captains and as leaders and as a team, we had to step up to the challenge, and I think that we responded.
“The thing is that on Monday, there won’t be no restart, so we gotta find a way to have that purpose from the beginning, it shouldn’t take a restart for it to happen. But hey, that was the case, that was the challenge that Coach presented us with, and I believe we responded the right way as a team.”
Judge had completed his Zoom obligations prior to practice, and the media was whisked away per NFL regulations and were unable to judge how the team responded. So we’ll have to take the players’ words for it.
“It was one of those moments where we just didn’t come out the right way and we needed to kind of to refocus and get things going again, and we did that,” Blake Martinez said. “We had to bounce back and kind of show our resolve and show our kind of ability to adapt and kind of as a team understand what we’re doing wrong and come back and fix it.”
Martinez has played for four NFL seasons, for Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur in Green Bay. He has never had to start practice over.
“That was definitely the first time,” Martinez said, “but it was really cool how kind of everybody took it in a positive way. It wasn’t kind of like, ‘Ah, here we go, why are we doing this?’ It was just like, ‘Hey, this is what we need to fix. We need to make sure we get this right.’
“’Cause I think we all understand how big this first week is to kind of set a statement for ourselves as a team on what we want to be moving throughout the season.”
On Aug. 24 Judge also stopped practice and got results immediately.
“Ever since the first time that I’ve had a team meeting with Coach Judge, been in the same room as Coach Judge, whether it’s Zoom or actually in our facilities,” Martinez said, “to me it’s never seemed like he’s a first-year head coach. Every single day he’s come with certain things fundamental-wise, situational … just every position he’s able to coach individually, as a group, and you feel like he just knows so much about football.
“I’ve gotten so much better as a player in this past month of training camp than I ever have, just in the ability to understand why we’re doing certain drills, how it’s gonna incorporate into a game, and then just overall as a player, just my awareness every given down, whether it’s first, second, third down, to know what’s coming, and what to expect.”
And when your team sleepwalks through practice, you better expect Mount Judge. Daniel Jones wasn’t immune to running a penalty lap, was he now?
“It wasn’t if you’re the star player or you’re an undrafted free agent. He was the same way to every single person,” Martinez said. “If you were doing it wrong, you knew you were doing it wrong, and he was gonna tell you in front of everybod no matter what [that player’s] status was. That was a big surprise to me, and it was awesome to have, ’cause it just shows how he wants the team from top to bottom to be.”
Here come Da Judge. And here come Da Giants, in lockstep behind him.
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