In a normal year, the new coaching staff and veteran players of the New York Giants would have begun the team’s offseason program in person on April 20th, a few days before the 2020 NFL Draft. But COVID-19 has prevented coaches and players from congregating in person and thus teams like the Giants have initiated virtual offseason programs, allowing interaction through computers and other devices. The Giants are now in the third week of their virtual program.
Last week, during an interview with CBS Sports, Head Coach Joe Judge singled out quarterback Daniel Jones. “I love working with this guy every day,” said Judge. “He’s got a fire that burns in him. He brings other guys along with him. He shows up every day. He knows what you’re going to teach before you’re teaching it in terms of being prepared on material. He sets the tone for the room, and I’m very excited when we finally get these guys in person and get with him.
“We had a lot of conversations, a lot of conversations. Let me tell you something right now, sitting down with him and talking his philosophy on the program and where we’re going to go, what his goals are in his career, I’m glad he’s on our team. Let me put it that way. I’m really glad he’s on our team.”
That praise has continued this week. In an interview with NBC Sports on Wednesday, Judge said, “We’re going to have different leaders. Daniel has to take on a role by the nature of his position. He’s done a phenomenal job of setting the tone with the way he’s working right now, and that’s the biggest part of it. You can’t be a leader if you’re not effective at your job and you don’t work hard for the team. Those are the two important things.
“But the other guys on our team have to lead as well. Everyone has their own style, and everyone has their own impact on the game, but we can’t rely on one guy to lead. But I’d say Daniel is off to a very strong start in these virtual meetings by setting the tone on how he’s working. That, to me, is the biggest thing. Everything he can do at this point, he’s doing. That’s all we can ask.”
Judge also discussed the challenges of working with his new roster during these challenging times.
“The biggest thing is we’re working virtually, but we have to knock down some of these walls and bridge the gaps for our players and form relationships,” said Judge. “The one thing we can’t have is we walk in for training camp in July or August and we start looking around and now we’re introducing ourselves to each other. We can’t have that. We have to find a way as a coaching staff of eliminating those gaps with our players and start just forming relationships. The X’s and O’s are very important, but the thing we’re missing right now is the lunch table conversations, the locker room bonds, walking off the field in phase two and three and just taking your cleats off on the steps together. There are things you can’t replicate through a computer. But we’re going to do our best as a coaching staff to put the players in a situation where they can start forming some of those relationships.
“A lot of (bonding) has to come through the football meetings themselves and the X’s and O’s and conversations. A lot of it has to really come along, give the understanding to the players that at some point, they have to reach out themselves. Look, a lot of these guys play video games together. As much as that seems like just something to pass time, it’s as important for team bonding right now as anything, if they can get on an Xbox and play with each other or pick up a phone and FaceTime like we are right now, at least look each other in the eyes as they talk. There are a lot of different modes. We kind of told players to be inventive. We’re always searching for ways as coaches ourselves that we can put them in positions to try to create competitive situations within meetings. But the more interaction we can promote, the better it’ll be for us as a team.”
Meanwhile, the coaching staff also has to adapt with the times. “I think the best thing I can do is just stay as busy as I can day by day,” Judge said. “We have a lot of work leading up to it right now. We’re mapping out training camp already, talking as a staff trying to get advanced scouting reports and everything on the same page. We’re still a new staff, so there’s a lot of things we need to make sure we cover without being in the building. There are things as simple as, ‘Alright, first time we go on the field, we’re not having spring ball right now. First time we go on the field, where are the different position groups going? When I blow the whistle, does everybody know where to run?’ So, they are all the discussions we’re having through computers right now so when we get back in the building, we can work faster together. There’s plenty to keep me busy. Let’s kind of manage a little bit of the anticipation or the energy as far as tapping my foot and waiting. But it’ll come fast enough, and we’re excited for the season to start.”