JANUARY 4, 2021 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 23-19 win over the Dallas Cowboys and the 2020 NFL season (the video is also available at Giants.com):
Opening Statement: Guys, I appreciate you pushing the time back a little bit later. Today was kind of a lot of exit meetings with our players, so I wanted to take the time and make sure we spoke with the majority of the players. We still have a handful that have to come back through tomorrow. I want to make sure I spend enough time with those guys before they get on the road and really start their offseason fully.
Before we get started with questions, I just want to take the opportunity to really thank everyone who was involved with this season. Every player, every coach, every staff member, every family member of a team member who was involved with the sacrifice involved with this as well, and especially the fans. This was a different type of year not having the fans in the stands. I can assure you; your absence was definitely noticed. We’ve already talked today collectively, players and coaches, about how much everyone is looking forward to next year when we can go ahead and open the gates and fill the stadium. That being said, I’d like to open it up to any questions you might have that I can answer.
Q: I’ll start with the little bit of news that’s out there. [Defensive Coordinator] Patrick Graham interviewing with the Jets. Do you expect you’re going to lose Patrick this offseason after the job he did for you?
A: Look, I just want to say this just very clearly, kind of on some of the topics with other things as well. I’m not now nor will I ever comment on any coach’s job, job prospects or any hypothetical reports about jobs until something is finalized and official. I appreciate the question; I respect the question. I think it’s easy to acknowledge we’ve had a number of coaches do a good job. I probably expect a number of requests for several of our coaches throughout this offseason. We’ll deal with that internally as they come up.
Q: At your introductory press conference, you talked about you wanted to have a team that reflected the grit of this area. Do you think you accomplished that?
A: You know it’s funny, we had that conversation last night. Someone asked me the same question in the locker room after the game. I can absolutely say yes. When I think about the people of this area, I think about hard working people who wake up every day regardless of the circumstance or situation, that have to go ahead and provide for their families. I think about people that work in tough conditions. I think about people who have to work through the COVID era. I think about people who have to go ahead and do things that are tougher for them just to make it better for other people. I think about people who don’t have a choice but to finish the job they start. And I think about our players and the way they’ve played this season, and you talk about adversity and going up and down when things aren’t always going right, things aren’t always peachy. These guys showed up to work every day to work hard, they showed up with a level of commitment, they showed up to make sure they made the decisions that were better for everybody else involved, even when it didn’t include themselves personally at times. I think about people when it was 0-5 or 1-7, didn’t question what the plan was, didn’t question what the process was, but they showed up on a daily basis to make sure that they played hard, they worked hard, they earned their paycheck and that they fought until the end. I think that reflects on the tape you turn on. It doesn’t have to be any quote from me. I think when you turn the tape on, that’s the attitude, the identity that our team has reflected on the play on Sundays. Obviously, there are things as a team you always have to collectively improve on going forward. There is no finished product. You never arrive. However, when you think about this area in terms of what this team should mean to the people out there, our guys have worked to make the people of this area proud. That’s something we talked about on a weekly basis. That’s something we’ll always continue to emphasize, along with the history of this program, the players that came before. But being the pride of the people of New York and North Jersey, that’s a main focus for the players and coaches in this building. That’s something we’re always going to go ahead and prioritize in terms of how we work, how we play and the types of players we have in this building.
Q: Do you expect to move forward with your staff intact, most notably Jason Garrett as your offensive coordinator? Also, do you expect to move forward next year with Dave Gettleman as your general manager?
A: Again, I respect the question. I’ve enjoyed working with every coach and staff member in this building. But respectfully to that question, I’m not going to comment on any jobs, hypothetical or anything like that, until anything is official. Don’t read anything into that. I’m just saying point blank it doesn’t matter what the question is. If it’s about a job of a member of our staff, I’m not going to comment on that at any point now or going forward.
Q: Do you label a season a success or on a scale of 1-10, whatever your system is? If so, what do you grade this season for the Giants?
A: I’m not a grades guy. I’m a process guy. I’m a steps along the ladder guy of what you have to accomplish. My number one goal as a coach this year was the foundation and the culture. The reality in this league is, every team, all 32 teams, have to start over to start the next season. You can’t carry anything over. However, you can build a foundation to build on the next season. You can build a culture in the locker room with the players and coaches that you’re working with. I can absolutely say with certainty we accomplished that. We accomplished that with how we worked on a daily basis, we accomplished that with how we held each other accountable as players and coaches, and we accomplished that with how we came to work every day with team-first in everything we did.
Q: Within the next couple of days a year ago, this week a year ago, you would have come in to interview for this job. I’m curious a year later, how close do you believe that you are to the vision that you sold this team and this franchise that you would bring in year one and also beyond to set the foundation for what you wanted as a program?
A: Look, I’ve stuck true to what I believe in, and I’m always going to do that. I’m always going to do it with my own personality and be myself. But my vision for this team of being a blue-collar team who’s going to come to work every day, that we’re going to do it with the right kind of people and the right kind of commitment to the team, that we’re going to work to reflect the area, that’s something I’ve stuck to consistently and I’m always going to stick to consistently. When I talked to ownership when I came on my interview last year, there was nothing that we did this year that I didn’t talk about on that day. At no point did we talk about it being easy. At no point did we talk about it being smooth through transition. But we talked about it being a commitment to the process and building this team the right way from the ground up, and laying the foundation and having the team with the right mentality and makeup to fight through the adverse situations and build this thing for a duration, and that it’s a long-term vision that we’re building. I talked at-length early on about not taking shortcuts to try to go ahead and feel good about year one in terms of win or loss column. But our job is to win games, don’t make any mistake on that. But we didn’t want to take any shortcuts. We wanted to make sure we did it the right way and that we could build this thing for sustained success over the years.
Q: This isn’t groundbreaking insight, but you look around the league, the best teams score the most points. You guys were 31st. How do you get from where you are now to where you need to be offensively?
A: I’d say the process of the, let’s call it a month and a half to two months, is going to be about us doing internal self-scouting, evaluation, schematically, personnel, how we’re using our players, what could we do better. That’s going to include not only what we’re doing but also things around the league as well. That’s kind of standard throughout the offseason of a lot of teams. Whereas last year we got together as a staff, there was a lot of install to get the systems in as a staff. This year, it will be a lot of self-scout and the league study to make sure we can find better ways of using our players, putting them in the best position possible going forward, and making sure we make any playbook adjustments, schematically or philosophically, going into next year. We want to have all that finalized by the time we hopefully get the players back in the spring, assuming we’ll have some kind of spring with the players. But to get that work started going forward, that should build into a strong training camp and help us in the season. I don’t have a one word or one phrase answer for you. It’s going to take a lot of work and studying in making sure we not only look at what we’re doing, but more importantly, who we’re doing it with and make sure we always put the players in a position of strength.
Q: You talked about laying the foundation and creating the culture, and you say you’ve done that. What’s phase two?
A: What’s phase two of it?
Q: What’s the next step?
A: Just like I didn’t go into step one right here, I have kind of a vision internally that I know where we’re going, and I have a process and steps. Obviously, we have to improve on the field with some tangible results. We could look at that. We have to make sure we make progress across the board with personnel and schematics. But I have kind of measures in the rungs along the way that I kind of keep tabs on. I make sure the team is moving in the right direction. Not to be kind of evasive with that answer right there, but I’m not going to set out some identified goal for everyone to go ahead and measure us against on a yearly basis.
Q: Just in terms of the question before about the scoring and the offense, how much do you want to have some continuity with Daniel [Jones] in terms of the system that he’s going to be playing in in 2021?
A: Look, I think it’s important for all of our players to have a base to build on in terms of schematics. That being said, in all phases, there always needs to be adjustments year to year. The league is always evolving. You’re always trying to find more creative ways to do things. For any player on the team, notably the quarterback, it’s important to have a solid base on it. But they have to evolve in their careers as we go along the way as well. You can’t be afraid of changes or adjustments within your own systems of schemes, adding different types of plays, finding different ways of being creative within your own personnel. That kind of ties into all the self-scouting and studying that we have to do going forward to make sure we’re doing the best things to help our team going along.
Q: Did you think that the Eagles did anything wrong in how they approached last night’s game? Can you walk us through what you were doing and how you were observing it? You had told us you were going to be preparing with Bucs film. Kind of watching it as you were doing that.
A: I’ll let Philadelphia speak for themselves on that in terms of how they approached the game. Real simply, I was in my office last night. I watched our film from the game yesterday and then I was actually watching our first Tampa game with the Philly-Washington game on in the background. There’s been a lot made of that game internal or from the outside. Let me just be very clear on this, we had sixteen opportunities this year, that’s it. It’s our responsibility to take care of our opportunities and perform better and execute the situations when they’re on our plate. We don’t ever want to leave our fate in the hands of anybody else. We’re not going to make excuses as an organization. Not now, not ever. We had our opportunities. We need to learn from the lessons we have from this year and carry them forward. That’s the experience you truly gain. That’s really the most important thing right there, our opportunities. That being said, obviously players have asked me throughout the day. The one thing to keep in mind with this season is we had a lot of people opt into this season. We had a lot of people opt in. Coaches, players, that includes family members as well. To look at a group of grown men who I ask to give me effort on a day in day out basis and to empty the tank. I can look them in the eye and assure them that I’m always going to do everything I can to put them in a competitive advantage and play them in a position of strength. To me, you don’t ever want to disrespect those players and their effort and disrespect the game. The sacrifices that they made to come in to work every and test before coming in. To sit in meetings spaced out, to wear masks, to have shields over those masks, to go through extensive protocols, to travel in unconventional ways and to get text messages at 6:30 in the morning telling them practice was going to be canceled we have to do a virtual day. To tell them to please don’t have your family over for Thanksgiving, please avoid Christmas gatherings, we know it’s your wife’s birthday let’s make sure we put that one off to the offseason. There’s a number of sacrifices that have been made by all the players and coaches in this league. There’s a number of sacrifices that come along as well for the family members of the people connected to them. To disrespect the effort that everyone put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win. We will never do that as long as I am the head coach of the New York Giants.
Q: What did you learn about yourself in your first year as a coach?
A: I probably have to step back and kind of do a self-study on myself to be honest with you, which is part of the plans anyway. I don’t think I am prepared at this moment right now to give you some kind of quick pin answer on that. I think I really have to step back and look at our team as a whole and that’s going to tell me a lot more about myself in terms of how I managed situations or handle different things. I don’t have a quick answer for you on that one right there. Maybe I can think about it and give you a better answer later on. I’m not shying away from that. You can ask that again later on if you want to. Patti, I think you had a similar question to that. It’s going to take me a little bit of time to step back and really think about it and do an assessment of how I handled everything this year. I’m very critical on myself so I want to sit back and kind of pick apart my own self as well. Along with myself and the help of several key staff members. Kind of analyze some of the things we did and service so criticism internally as well.
Q: Going back to what you were talking about before, the question before. Have you reached out to anybody with the Eagles based on what you said? Have you talked to Doug Pederson specifically?
A: No, that’s not my job. I’m focused on the New York Giants and what we have to do going forward. I’m just directly responding to questions I have been asked throughout the day by players, making sure that everybody understand our philosophy and what we’re going to do here. When we say that we’re going to come to work every day and we’re going to make the area proud and we’re going to be a blue-collar team. We’re going to do all that stuff, that’s not going to be lip service. We’re going to do everything we can all the time to make the sacrifices and the commitment to be successful, and to put the players in a position of success. Really simply, it’s my job as a coach. It’s our job as coaches to give these players some kind of edge or advantage. It’s their job to go out there and play, execute and perform. We can’t put them on the field and not do everything in our power to give them every advantage possible.
Q: Is there one do over that you want from your first go-round as a head coach that you would be willing to share with us?
A: Ask that a little while later like Jordan’s question. I don’t want to shy away from that but let me actually stop and think about it. I’m not a big regrets person to be honest with you, I’m really not. I’ll say this though, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look at the staff or a player and go you know what I screwed that up. If I screwed it up, I’m going to let everyone know hey that’s on me. I expect everyone to own their mistakes. In terms of a do-over, I think we have to learn from all our experiences and carry them forward. Let me kind of think about it. There’s been a couple calls in games that I kind of come out of the game and said man Joe, that was pretty stupid. You shouldn’t have done that there. There’s a better way of doing that. There are always those things. Sometimes those are more valuable to do and learn from so you don’t repeat that mistake.
Q: Given this year and how it went – and none of us want to repeat it ever – is there a chance that you connected better or differently with new people around you, meaning staff, players, the whole gambit at the Giants facility because of the challenges that we were all under in 2020?
A: I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I think that question holds a lot of merit and I think a lot of it is because we had to be very intentional in how we establish relationships. We couldn’t take anything for granted. When you’re trying to form a team through Zoom, just like we’re doing right now, you have to be very intentional about how you set up the day, you have to be very intentional about how you organize interactions, you have to be very intentional about how you demand guys to learn about each other and be able to speak in front of the team about their teammate and share information. You have to make sure you set up the team in the right environment that they have to form a bond. I told the players, I said, ‘Guys, my number one goal in the spring was to make sure when we show up in training camp we don’t have strangers,’ and that was clearly evident when we saw guys walking down the hallways shaking hands, slapping high-fives and kind of catching up on time. And these were guys that didn’t play with each other on previous teams and that was something that very early in the process you could see that our guys were committed to whatever we asked them to do. They did it full speed ahead and that showed up early on. That really tied up over to the other thing I talked about, the big picture goal of year one coming out with the foundation and the culture. Look, that’s a lot harder and it’s a lot bigger within the big scope of things than is sometimes realized. Sometimes they’re just kind of catchphrase words that everyone says, ‘Yeah, yeah, I got you, foundation and culture.’ But those are really the most important things in any team. You hear [Jason] Kelce last night after the Eagles game, made a sound bite talking about the culture of the team and I think he was spot on with that. You talk about it’s truly all about the team. You have to form that team environment not just so for the guys that are in the building right now, but for the guys that we’re going to bring into the building, draft picks, free agents, people that we acquire throughout. It’s got to be important to the guys in this building, the guys who went 0-5, the guys who went 1-7, the guys who fought through those situations and went through year one of this, that whoever comes in here has to understand what’s expected not just by the coaches, but by the players as well, the guys who built this and established this and have helped get this going. It’s important to those players, it has to be true ownership from the inside. When the players buy in and they’re a part of it and it’s their culture and their foundation, it’s easier to bring guys in and get them acclimated to what you’re trying to do. You know, in terms of the big picture scope of it, that was very important. Going back to the original question of it, I think going through this kind of virtual orientation, or however you want to, of forming a team you had to be very intentional of it and in a lot of ways you couldn’t take it for granted, and in that way it was a lot more effective.
Q: I assume you’ve been going year-round since you’ve been hired. Are you going to give yourself time to decompress, to get to know your family again, to talk it over with the dog and see what you want to do this year, things like that?
A: Yeah, definitely. Look, I laid out the calendar for the coaches. To be honest with you, really beyond most of February there’s a lot of unknowns. We don’t know what the spring program is going to bring, the Combine is not really in concrete yet, we don’t know if that’s solid, we’re assuming the Senior Bowl is going to go on. There’s a lot of kind of marker points throughout the year – even the free agency dates – that aren’t in concrete yet for us to work on, so we’re going to work this week as coaches. There’s a lot of end of season reports, player evaluations, initial scheme evaluations, things that of that nature that they’re going to finalize by the end of the week and then I want them to get out of town, to be honest with you. I want them all to get out of here and refresh mentally, catch up physically, get some sleep, see their wives, see their kids. Look, we’ve got coaches on this staff who haven’t seen family since July. [Running Backs Coach] Burton Burns’ wife and grandkids are down in Alabama, weren’t able to come up here with the COVID situation, so Burton hasn’t seen his family since July. [Assistant Coach of Special Projects and Situations] Amos Jones’ family, he’s got a kid in high school out there in Arizona. He hasn’t had a chance to have any interaction. In a normal year, they would’ve come out here for games. This has been a weird year because of travel, they’ve been without seeing each other, so it’s important for me for them to go see their families, reconnect with their wives and kids. I’ll absolutely do the same, but there’s going to be a number of things that come up on my schedule a little bit different, I won’t be able to fully step away at all times. However, there is going to be a period of a week, two weeks, whatever that may be that I’m going to go ahead and throw the phone in the drawer, which I kind of do – unless your last name is Mara or Tisch, don’t give me a phone call, I’ll get in touch with you. There’s going to be time that I’ll find time to reconnect with the family, the kids especially, that’s definitely a key part of it. I think this is kind of a weird part of the year to be honest with you, this first week away from the season. Our wives really want us out of the house more than in because we just kind of come back and screw up the natural order of things that get ran when we’re not home, so we kind of want to stay away for an extra week to quit being pests until we kind of decompress from the season and get back into it. But, yeah, I’ll definitely find some time for myself and my family and make sure we reconnect.