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Joe Judge’s Leadership: What the Giants Need

Joe Judge at his Introductory Press Conference in January 2020

By: Michael Gagliardi

With a first-year coach in the New York sports market, one can expect a lot of hindsight bias, undeserved criticism from the media, and a healthy amount of expletives shouted from the stands. The good news for Giants head coach Joe Judge is that in 2020, without fans in the stands, he will not have to worry about the latter. The other two expectations are, unfortunately, still alive and well.

Judge came into New York, as most head coaches do, with lots of criticism meeting him at the front door. The media destroyed Dave Gettleman for a good few days for hiring an “unknown special teams coach” to be the head coach of the biggest football team (sorry, not sorry Jets fans) in the biggest sports market in the country. However, Judge seemed to kick that criticism right out of the building after his now-famous introductory press conference. He showed a no-nonsense attitude right off the bat, and his speech made everybody who listened to it ready to put the pads on and run through a brick wall. He comes from the Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Tom Coughlin school of “talk is cheap, play the game,” and his speech showed it! Needless to say, the New York media ate it right up, and PRESTO: Joe Judge was immediately universally loved.

It stayed this way for many months as the league (and the whole world) was completely shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but now that the NFL has dusted off their facilities and started training camp, the media is coming back with a vengeance. Judge is keeping his promise of hard-nosed, no nonsense leadership, not having names on the back of the players’ jerseys, to running full-contact drills and scrimmages, to *GASP* making his players (and coaches) run laps for making mistakes! The past few days, we have seen a lot of reporters criticizing Judge for these practices, which is maddening!

First off, when pestered about why the players don’t have nameplates, Judge calmly answered that he wants everyone on the team to get used to judging what a player is going to do based on how he moves, his positioning, and his body language. You’re not going to pay attention to the other team’s nameplates in a game, so why would you draw attention to your own team’s nameplates in practice? It seems like this response shut the media up for a little bit, but then padded practices started. Some articles I’ve seen have seemed to be kind of horrified that the Giants are doing so much hitting in practice, and are condemning Judge’s style of practice because it’s going to cause injuries and lose the locker room. This is the attitude from the media that I can’t stand. This is the typical “reporter who has never put on pads and a helmet in his/her life” attitude, and that position makes no sense. There are no preseason games this year, so how else exactly are the coaches supposed to be able to tell who can tackle and who can’t? Tackling is part of the game, and as crass as it sounds, injuries are going to happen; it’s the nature of the sport.

However, Judge’s practice that has seen the most outrage from the media, even from former players like Shannon Sharpe and Emmanuel Acho, has been his making the team run laps for mistakes like dropped passes, jumping offsides, etc. The argument from these people essentially amounts to two main points: Judge is going to lose the locker room because professional athletes should not have to run laps, and running laps as punishment won’t make the players any better.

Firstly, anyone that has played organized football for even a day in their lives has run laps, or at the very least, seen coaches make players run laps for making mistakes. This is a common practice done at every single level of the game, seemingly up until the professional level. My question is: why should professionals be immune from running laps? Aren’t they getting paid millions of dollars to play the same game that they’ve played all their lives up until this point? I just don’t understand what getting paid millions of dollars has to do with an inability to run laps if you make a mental error. In my mind, if 10-year-old kids deserve to run laps for jumping offsides, then you can be damn sure that you deserve it too if you’re getting paid to be there. Also in regards to Judge “losing the locker room,” if I’m a coach and one of my professional athletes loses all respect for me because I made him run, then frankly I don’t want him on my team. It’s also of note that the coaches (including Judge) run laps for mistakes as well. This is to show that the coaches aren’t always right, and will be held accountable for their mistakes as well. As a player, it is always comforting to know that your coaches have your back no matter what and take responsibility for their own decisions on the sidelines, just as you are held responsible for your decisions on the field.

As for the second argument, the rebuttal is quite simple. Laps aren’t supposed to make the players any better. They’re supposed to give the players a reason to make themselves better. If you’re a receiver and you don’t like that you are constantly running laps every practice because of dropped passes, then the idea is that you say to yourself “man I’ve been running a lot of laps, maybe I should put in some work at the jug machine after practice and work on my hands.” Coaches should not have to take time out of practice to do simple drills like that with players, so it is important for any player, especially a professional, to sharpen their fundamentals on their own time.

This type of coaching and leadership is exactly what the Giants need right now at this pivotal time in their history. They are the worst team in the NFL over the last 3 seasons and were in the basement of the league for all but 3 years of the last decade. Since Coughlin left, we have seen this team get softer and softer every single year, as well as become less and less disciplined. There is a reason that the Patriots have consistently been one of the least penalized teams in football for almost the entire 21st century: the Belichick discipline philosophy works. Love him or hate him, Bill gets the best out of the players on his roster every single year and is the definition of a coach that gets his players to play above their potential. Belichick teaches his players to play fundamentally sound and instills discipline to make his team be able to play with anyone. There’s a reason why the Patriots always seem to pull really solid players out of absolutely nowhere, and when these players go to another team, nobody ever hears from them again. Discipline and a great team attitude bring out the best in players, and that is what Judge is starting to implement in New York.

Solid play has always especially been the case with the Patriots’ special teams, which are constantly among the best in the league. Who has manned the special teams helm for them from 2015-2019 (a stretch with 3 Super Bowl rings)? That would be Joe Judge. Judge thrives on getting the best he possibly can out of the players he’s been given, so for members of the media to criticize the very methods that made his former team the most successful pro sports franchise of the past 20 years is groundless.

Overall, from knowledgeable sources, it seems that the locker room loves Judge and that the criticism of him is mostly limited to the national media. As fans, we have every reason to trust this man with this young, potential-laden Giants team, and we should not let the national sports talking heads discourage us from getting behind him.

Get to know the players that Judge will be coaching up inside the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia!

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