EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants co-owner John Mara made a fairly startling admission after Thursday’s introductory press conference for new head coach Joe Judge. Mara basically admitted he didn’t really expect to end up hiring Judge when he, GM Dave Gettleman and assistant GM Kevin Abrams sat down to talk with him on Monday afternoon.
By his own admission, Mara has been through far too many of these coaching candidate interviews over the past five seasons. He said halfway through this one, which he termed “the best interview I’ve ever been a part of,” he knew Judge was the guy he wanted to be the 19th head coach of the Giants.
“To be honest with you I went into the interview not really expecting all that much,” Mara said. “I didn’t really know him. I certainly knew of him, but the more we went on the more impressive he became.
“When we finished I looked at Dave (Gettleman) and Kevin (Abrams) and we were ecstatic. We said ‘this is our guy. This has gotta be our guy.’ “
Timeline-wise, the Giants still had an interview scheduled with Matt Rhule. When Rhule’s agent called to see if the Giants would match the seven-year offer Rhule had from the Carolina Panthers Giants’ ownership decided “we were not going there.”
“We had somebody we were excited about,” Mara said. “I think this guy is unique.”
“I’m just excited about what he brings to the table. He has a certain poise and presence about him.”
So, why are the Giants excited about Judge?
Judge stood in front of a room full of reporters, members of the Giants organization, a handful of former players that included Justin Tuck, David Diehl and Rich Seubert and showed why.
Can Joe Judge command a room? You tell me. pic.twitter.com/gvc7UzOec8— Big Blue View (@bigblueview) January 9, 2020
Judge, 38, came with the reputation of a guy who can command a room, and he can certainly do that.
“What I’m about is an old-school, physical mentality. We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region can be proud of. We’ll play fast, we’ll play downhill, we’ll play aggressive. We’ll punch you in the nose.”
Judge talked about “caring for the players.” He talked a ton about teaching. He said he wants a “blue collar” team “that’s in your face.”
“My priority is to put the right men around these players so that they can come to work every day, they can be coached hard, they can be taught,” Judge. “Before anything if you’re going to work in an organizaion you’re a good person. I don’t want any alternative agendas.
“I want teachers, not presenters ... I want old-school people who can get to our players and give them the mental image of what it’s supposed to look like.”
Judge is not a guy married to a scheme or a certain way things have to be done, saying there is no “magic scheme” that leads to winning.
“The same things win football games that have always won football games. It’s fundamentals,” he said.
Judge promised padded practices and as much live tackling and physicality as possible in practices.
He also promised a Belichick-ian idea of not having one specific way of playing each week.
“Our philosophy is going to be to put pressure on the opponent to prepare for multiple things,” Judge said. ‘Within that we have to have personnel versatility and we have to flexibility schematically.”
In an interview with Bob Papa prior to the press conference, Judge also said he believes you have to “run the ball, stop the run, cover kicks” to win.
He said that what he learned from Belichick was “be flexible with your personnel ... figure out what you have, let them play to your strengths. Don’t sit in a meeting and tell me what you don’t have in a player ... tell me what they can do and then we’ll figure out as coaches, because that’s our job, how we can use that. That’s our responsibility.”
Judge obviously has had many of the core beliefs of his last two bosses, Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, ingrained in him. He promised on Thursday, though, to “be myself.”
“If I’m anything else everyone is going to see straight through it, and if you lie to the team you’re going to lose the team immediately. So, I’m going to always be myself,” Judge said. “I’m not trying to emulate anyone I’ve ever worked for. I’m trying to take what I’ve learned from them and what matches up with my belief structure and do it in my own personality.”
If you’re reading this and thinking that this was a guy the old-school Gettleman could fall in “full-bloom love” with, you’d be right.
Like Mara, Gettleman said halfway through the Monday interview he knew Judge was the right guy.
“Our philosophies mesh,” said Gettleman, adding that interviewing Judge was like “a conversation.”
“When you get in there (the interview) you keep saying to yourself ‘is it real?’ You keep asking yourself that question.”
It certainly was for the Giants’ brain trust. Real enough that they have gone against conventional wisdom and made Judge the only coach in the NFL — barring the Cleveland Browns also deciding on a first-time head coach — who will enter next season never having been the head coach in a game at any level.
Thursday, you got the idea that the organization has little doubt he will be up to the task.
For his part, Judge certainly gave a glimpse of why.