New York Giants head coach Joe Judge spoke Sunday night about a “foundation being poured” for long-term success despite the team’s poor 4-9 record. Judge admitted those things are “tough to see externally.”
So, Monday morning, in his post-mortem press conference the day after the Giants’ 37-21 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, I asked him to explain.
Judge offered an astounding 1,687-word answer that took more than six minutes.
Here is the question, as yours truly asked it to the head coach during a Zoom call.
You talked last night about a foundation being poured, but you said that some of those things we can’t really see externally. Can you expand a little bit on the kinds of things that you see that you feel good about?
Let’s break Judge’s answer into segments, with just a small segment removed since I don’t want your eyes to glaze all the way over.
Young, talented players
“First off, it always starts with the players, right? What I see on the field right now is we have a lot of young, developing players, a lot of guys that are going to end up being impact players for us and build a strong foundation on the field. There are a number of guys who are rookies, who are in their second or maybe even third year of their contracts that are really starting to turn the corner and show a lot of gains in terms of performance on the field as players, guys at key positions that you can see as we watch these guys in terms of how they practice and how they’re starting to carry it over. The reality is we put a lot of young players on the field and there are some learning curves and there are some things we have to help eliminate and can’t have one-offs with mistakes. But you can see the right demeanor of play, you can see the right style of play of what we want.”
“The right kind of people”
“On top of being good players, we’re getting the right kind of people in the building. We’re getting team-first people. We’re getting guys who are putting the team first on decisions they make. We’re also getting guys that are fighting adversity. We’re getting guys who come to work every week and no matter what happened the week before, they put in a solid week to prepare, put the team first and do everything they can to have a chance to have success. I see guys who are going ahead and they’re being good leaders within the building, they’re helping their teammates along the way. They’re setting good examples for the young players. I’m pleased with how our veteran players are taking guys under their wing and trying to help guys develop. There are leaders within the locker room. I’m pleased with the way our guys handle themselves publicly in terms of representing the organization. I’m pleased with the fight they show on the field. There are a lot of intangible things that you try to build when you start a program.”
Learning how to practice
“Some of the things we look at, which are some of the hardest things to do when you take over a program, can’t be seen. One of the things I found out being in a different place for the first time in a while – and really (Assistant Head Coach) Pat Graham and (Quarterbacks Coach) Jerry Schuplinski after coming from that experience their first year in Miami with Flo (Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores) down there, one thing they kept talking to me over and over about was that you’re not going to understand or believe how tough it is to teach people how to practice. Really, good teams practice the right way, and I can think of examples last year and then this year with a lot of new players and the way some of the things were learned through training camp, but getting guys on the right page of how to come out and practice and prepare. That goes through how you meet throughout the day, how you prepare your body, but then when you go on the field, how to practice with the right tempo, the right intensity, the right execution and detail. That’s something that took some time, a lot longer than I thought. It’s not as simple as saying this is how this drill goes and what to do. It’s how to practice as a whole.
“You see the right makings of how guys go out there and prepare for practice, and that’s really a key element in having success, obviously about how you prepare. There’s a lot of things within the building in terms of how guys are not only taking care of their bodies but doing the right things and changing the nutrition program inside. It helps when these younger players really develop and put on the size and the strength that they have to to really develop their bodies. We talk about the intangible things, about how the guys put the team first and treat the people in the building and make sure that they’re doing everything the right way to represent the organization and put the team first.”
“It’s not fantasy football”
“There are a lot of traits and things that when you look at depth charts that you’re secured with contracts going into the future, and you look and say, ‘Are these pieces we can build with? Are these guys at these positions we think can make an impact?’ When the answer is yes at a key number of spots, then that’s a positive note.
“You have to get these young players developing, you have to make sure the older players continue to make an impact, you have to make sure you put each of your players in positions to have success, but getting the right kind of guys in the building – that’s physically as players to fit your system, that’s the right kind of character and culture that you have to have going forward – those are key things that you have to do. Then, making sure everyone’s on the same page in terms of how you practice, prepare and conduct yourself throughout the course of a year, specifically the course of a week, to get ready. Those are key things. Those are key elements that you have to get done and get accomplished. It’s not simple. It’s not fantasy football, you don’t come on in, you don’t select a couple players in the draft and sign someone in free agency and say, ‘Every problem is solved.’ You’ve got to come in and put all the pieces in place over time.”
Building for sustained success
“There are a lot of examples of teams that have come in and had quick success and then filtered out quickly, but there are better examples of teams that have come in and collectively gone together and put the team together the right away over the course of a few seasons and had sustained success over time. I’m very pleased with the way we’ve been able to push and get guys going throughout the culture, pleased in the way our locker room conducts itself and handles itself. I’m very pleased with the leadership that’s being built, I’m very pleased with the toughness our guys have shown mentally and physically to fight through injuries or adversity to go out there and put the team first. There are a lot of things I see on a daily basis.”
“There are a lot of things that aren’t seen on the outside. Ultimately, I say it all the time, it’s a production business. We understand that. We understand that, but before you start getting all the results that everyone can see, you’ve got to get all the things behind the scenes right and you’ve got to get it going in the right direction.
“When you talk about the foundation, it’s the most important part. Unless you have a strong foundation with your locker room, with your culture, with the way you’re developing players, you don’t have any chance to sustain anything on the field – not for any meaningful duration of time. I’ve said this from the beginning, I’m not interested in coming and having some kind of quick flash, I’m not interested in shortcuts, I’m not interested in quick fixes.”
Support from ownership
“I want to do this the right way and when I took this job, I made it very, very clear that I was only going to do this if we were all committed to doing this the right way and that’s been something that’s been very clear from ownership on down. I’m very happy with the support the ownership gives. Both families are tremendous people to work for and I know that this team is very, very important to them. To be honest with you, it’s their family business and football’s my family business, too. I take a lot of pride in what we do and the product is important to me not only in just the wins and losses, which ultimately in this business is the most important part, but it’s also how you do it and how you prepare and how you conduct yourself throughout the course of the week, how your team represents you on and off the field and how the players reflect what you’re trying to represent within that community and the city you represent.”