Even before he has spent one day with his full team, Joe Judge has been tested in unforeseen ways.
Two months after starting his new job as coach of the New York Giants, the coronavirus pandemic hit. The Giants had to learn as a young team with a new coach and staff how to conduct business and even a draft remotely.
Last month's killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody has led to major changes in the country, and around the world. Demonstrations have taken place in large cities and small towns to protest police brutality and racism.
These are issues some players have experienced, and they want to talk about it. So does Judge. He wants to speak with his team and then decide what to do, admitting he has a lot to learn.
“As a 38-year-old white guy, I don’t have all the experiences that our players and coaches have had,” Judge said earlier this week in an interview with The Associated Press. “The most important thing for us to do is to just listen and try to understand the best we can and support our players and support our coaches. And then find a way to channel the energy and the emotion, put it into making a difference and really building a sustained difference.”
Judge wants his players to take a lead in conversations and with societal issues they want to address.
“We’re not just checking a box and saying that we’re having these discussions or checking the box the same, or I do something just to say we did it,” Judge said. “You know, since I came here, I’ve been very adamant about that. The team, we’re going to be involved in this area, New York, New Jersey, and we’ll be part of this community. And be a part ... means you can help and you can use your platform for something positive. We want to go ahead and make sure that we work as a team, as a positive example of working together and being able to go ahead and make a difference.”
Judge did not discuss whether he would take a knee on game day during the national anthem to show his support of the call for social change if his players do so. It’s clear he intends to support what the team decides to do. It’s been his way since he was hired.
Judge held about 15 individual telephone calls with the media on Monday and Tuesday just to get to know the people who cover the team. He seemed relaxed and didn’t mind extending the original 20-minute time frame the Giants' public relations department had wanted.
“I wanted to take time and not rush through it and have more of a conversation than just have the standard interview where it’s like an auction and we’re kind of firing around and you’re frustrated,” Judge said.
His approach to being the head guy for the first time is to be prepared, demanding, disciplined and ready to adjust. He's also going to follow mentor Bill Belichick's advice and be himself in trying to resurrect a franchise that has been to the playoffs once since winning its fourth Super Bowl in February 2012.
The former Patriots special teams coordinator recently closed on a new home in New Jersey. He has been the Giants' headquarters a few times since the recent opening of the team facility.
The protocols for bringing back the players are still being determined. He even admits he does not know how his meetings with the media will take place.
Judge said the remote teaching with the team went well, However, he missed seeing the players in person and getting the eye contact that makes conversations a little more personal — and gives him feedback whether he is getting through.
Judge refused to discuss the arrest of cornerback DeAndre Baker in Florida on armed robbery and aggravated assault charges. He said the organization has discussed the topic.
Baker, a first-round pick who was inconsistent in his rookie season last year, has pleaded innocent.
Since the interview, placekicker Aldrick Rosas was arrested Monday on suspicion of hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license. The Giants have talked to him and are not saying anything else.
Looking back on the last five-plus months, Judge said the best part is getting to work at home and see him family more.
“I’m sure my wife was worn out at times and me being home all the time and running meetings from the middle of our floor and asking everyone to be quiet for two hours,” he quipped.
The time also made famous his golden retriever, Abby. She was photographed sitting next to him at his home in New England preparing for the draft.
“We had to take her down a peg or two.” said Judge. “She’s a sweetheart. You know, I’ve actually got a second dog and she’s kind of, you know, it’s almost like they know something’s going on. We’ve been laughing a lot. The kids got a kick out of that whole thing.”