Joe Judge, John Mara, Steve Tisch
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge promised to bring back smash-mouth football. That passion and force are exactly what this team needs.

Run the ball, stop the run and cover kicks. The New York Giants haven’t truly succeeded in any of these three essential phases of the game of football in quite some time.

New head coach Joe Judge made it clear in his introductory press conference on Thursday that he plans to have his team excel in those areas. When looking back at the Giants’ rich history, these phases of football are how their best teams were built. 

In 1986 it was Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and George Martin stuffing runners. Joe Morris was running the ball down opponents’ throats. Meanwhile, Sean Landeta was winning the field-position battle by pinning teams deep.

The 1990 campaign saw Taylor along with Carl Banks and Leonard Marshall shutting down opposing running backs. Rodney Hampton and Ottis Anderson would run at will. Landeta was still there doing what he did best.

Finally, in both 2007 and 2011, the Giants had outstanding defensive fronts with Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora in the trenches. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw formed one of the NFL’s best backfield duos. On special teams, Jeff Feagles (2007) and Steve Weatherford (2011) pinned teams deep to tremendously assist the Giants defense. 

In each of the past three seasons, Big Blue has finished in the bottom half of the league in both run defense and rushing yards-per-game.

Coach Judge made it clear that he plans to mightily alter this.

“The same things win football games that have always won football games. It’s fundamentals,” Judge said at his introductory press conference. “Those fundamentals will start for us in the classroom. They’ll start with being in meetings on time, they’ll start with being on the field on time in the proper dress. They’ll start with knowing your playbook, they’ll start with being out there and stretching the right way and warming your body up the right way that you prevent any kind of soft tissue injuries on the field.”

Judge went onto add that he plans for his players to carry over the fundamentals onto the field.

“It’s running, it’s tackling, it’s ball security,” he said. “It is a contact sport, you can’t get past that. It’s meant to be a physical game. It’s for tough people. We will practice with a physical attitude.”

This is exactly what the Giants need in a head coach. Under Pat Shurmur, they never seemed like a physical team at all.

On defense, New York looked hopeless as Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball right through them. He did it time and time again, leading to four straight Dallas wins in the last two years.

The Giants simply couldn’t hold their own on the defensive side of the ball either. Teams like the Eagles would run on them with their physical offensive line. With that, the Giants’ weak pass rush and run defense would crumble. 

Coach Judge seems more than determined to change that.

“We’ll play fast, we’ll play downhill, we’ll play aggressive,” he said. “We’ll punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we’ll play every play like it has a history and a life of its own, with a relentless, competitive attitude.”

A big problem for the Giants under Shurmur was their inability to finish games. In 2018, they lost two games to winning field goals as time expired. Eight of their 11 losses were by just one possession.

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Shurmur’s second season saw the Giants drop five one-possession games. They frustratingly lost several affairs in which they actually opened up the scoring.

Clearly, there wasn’t enough emphasis from Shurmur and his staff on finishing games. On day one, the head of the new regime noted that he intends to stress that. 

Judge brings a passion that the Giants haven’t had in a head coach since Tom Coughlin. His plans to bring an old school approach that perhaps even Coughlin didn’t offer should excite longtime fans of this historic franchise.

Emphasizing the importance of tackling, finishing games, running the ball, and stopping the run is exactly what Judge promises to do. Based on the passion in his voice, it’s hard to believe he won’t build upon any of these ideas.