Happy with the effort.
Fought his butt off.
It does not all add up, but that is fine, for now. Joe Judge must play the long game with his young and, as was the case in the season-opening loss to the Steelers, overmatched first Giants team. His head coaching debut was not particularly galling or angst-ridden. It went according to script, like it or not.
The first words of analysis out of Judge’s mouth after his first loss were, “I’m proud of how this team fought for 60 minutes.’’ He sounded matter-of-fact and, a day later, after reviewing the 26-16 defeat, was not going to be cajoled into deeper revelations, as far as critiquing individual players for public consumption.
“To be honest with you I think it’s my job to support the players,’’ he said. “I think it’s their job internally to make corrections and adjustments that are necessary. But I don’t think you’re going to see too much different from me than you’ve seen already, if that kind of paints a little bit of a picture for you.’’
Judge this summer had something positive to say about anyone and everyone, when asked. He liked the way some rookie appeared attentive in a Zoom meeting. He appreciated the energy of one guy and the demeanor of another.
Twenty-four hours after a game, a coach will usually be more enlightening about a specific mistake or bad decision. Tom Coughlin was highly entertaining with some of his emotionally charged day-after breakdowns. One game in, Judge was as revealing as a blindfold.
Saquon Barkley “played hard,’’ even though Barkley hardly got anything accomplished on the ground, rushing 15 times for 6 yards. Center Nick Gates “overall handled himself pretty well’’ and right tackle Cam Fleming “fought his butt off.’’ The crushing interception in the end zone on Daniel Jones’ most ill-advised pass of the night? Judge said he did not yet go into detail on that with his quarterback. But he did say, “I’ll tell you what, we woke up this morning, I’m glad he’s on our team.’’
Judge already knows he is going to need his players to stay involved and keep believing, as the early-season schedule seems destined for more losing.
“I kind of am who I am every day,’’ Judge said. “Internally we’ll address things always. We’re gonna be very blunt and honest, we’re very transparent in this organization. We’ll always be very direct with what we have to do to correct it.
“That being said, I’d say on a weekly basis that always will be a little bit different. Sometimes a team needs some encouraging, sometimes they need a come-to-Jesus meeting. Whatever each week calls for that’s what we’re going to go ahead and have. No matter what tone you do it in, it’s always about teaching. Players don’t go out there and intentionally make mistakes. They don’t go out there and intentionally screw up.’’
It was not all screw-ups. Despite a late fade, this was a far more cohesive defense, players knowing and actually executing their assignments, and not a spate of busted coverages. This was a more assured Daniel Jones, finding creative ways to pick up first downs. This was a solid start for rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas and this ushered in burgeoning No. 1-target status for Darius Slayton.
The entire operation looked better, crisper, in sync. That bodes well. When Judge, explaining Barkley’s nightmare 2020 debut, said, “Collectively we have to do a better job coaching, putting our players in the right positions,’’ it was an admission this is all new. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett now has some degree of evidence as to what his line is capable of and, more tellingly, what it is incapable of achieving on the field.
Judge admitted it was a bit unsettling to not have a position group to shepherd and thus he did not have a predetermined time he had to head out for warm-ups. He made sure to hit the field early enough to “see how the guys move around, get a feel for their energy.’’
Then he immersed himself in his first game as a head coach.
“I didn’t feel weird about anything,’’ he said. “It was just a little bit of a change.’’
It all takes some getting used to. The Bears are up next and Judge has more encouraging to do