At the highest level, the relationship is symbiotic, long-lasting and mutually beneficial. There are all sorts of interactions within the framework of an NFL team. How the head coach and starting quarterback get along might be the most crucial of all.
“Absolutely,’’ Joe Judge said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of merit to what you just asked.’’
Take a look at what will be on display Monday night, when Judge makes his debut as the Giants face the Steelers. Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger are Pittsburgh fixtures. It is not always perfect and at times there is friction. But they are intertwined and they know it.
This is how it must be for Judge and Daniel Jones. Anyone who saw Eli Manning in tears on the day Tom Coughlin in his farewell press conference told his quarterback, “He thinks it’s his fault … it’s not your fault,’’ understood what the two men meant to each other.
It takes time. Shared success certainly helps. Judge and Jones are in the nascent period of their coexistence. Maybe it lasts only a few years. Maybe more than a decade. Maybe forever.
Jones got an initial feel for his new coach back in the winter, briefly, before COVID-19 forced everybody to go their separate ways. Judge then tried to build a rapport through laptop screens. They were able to see eye-to-eye, literally, once training camp began. They know far more now than they did before, with plenty more growth to go.
“I think the thing sometimes people may miss on Daniel is he’s quiet-natured at times, because he’s not just out there spouting out,’’ Judge said. “But he’s not a quiet guy. Daniel, you get him going, you get him talking, you get him in the huddle, you get him around the guys, Daniel’s got a very big personality. He’s a great dude.
“Until you spend a lot of time with him you can miss that depth of him as a person. That’s been a really pleasant surprise. I always knew he was intelligent. I knew he was very respectful, I knew he was a hard worker, but until we really got time to be with each other in person and spend a training camp together, you don’t really see all those layers of people.’’
It is the stuff within the layers that makes a work partnership into something more. That cannot be rushed. Jones, 23, is entering his second NFL season and learning his second NFL offense. That is not optimal for immediate results. Judge is a first-time head coach with a history on special teams. The offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, will call the plays and serve as a sounding board for Jones. Judge will let Jones and Garrett do their thing. Still, Judge and Jones must be connected by more than titles and job descriptions.
“I think I certainly feel like I got a good relationship with coach, I’ve enjoyed working with him and learning from him through camp and into this season,’’ Jones said. “He’s a very detailed coach, he’s clear and the way he communicates, the way he says what he wants is very clear and purposeful. You can feel that and I think guys respond to that.’’
Judge at first did not want to separate Jones from the group.
“Everyone’s relationship is unique on a team,’’ Judge said. “I try to have special relationships with all the players.’’
Next, Judge stressed he must have a good relationship with all the “signal callers’’ on the team, mentioning quarterback, middle linebacker, the deep safety and the personal protector on the punt team.
“These signal callers are critical to the units they’re on,’’ Judge said. “Ultimately, they’re the quarterback when they’re on the field, whether they’re the quarterback, defensive player or special teams player. They have to see the game the way you’re presenting it to them. And you have to see the game the way their lens is on the field. That only happens through a lot of conversation.’’
The head coach and the actual quarterback, though, must be united, on the field and off it.
“A quarterback and head coach have to be able to talk,’’ Judge said. “[Jones] being one of our captains obviously puts him in a position that we’re going to have a lot of conversations, not just offensive football but involving all aspects of the program. That should open a platform to him and myself to talk a lot throughout the weeks.’’
They will talk a lot. They are in this together.