A multitude of obstacles and instances have introduced a very weird and unusual start to Joe Judge’s tenure with the New York Giants.
Pushing and succeeding through difficult states of affairs, especially the ones that are blindsiding, are what (eventually) turns the unknown NFL head coaches into legends. As Vince Lombardi said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
This is exactly the type of viewpoint Joe Judge must keep in his mind and heart while looking ahead to his inaugural season as not just an NFL head coach, but a head coach in general. Because prior to his first regular-season game with the New York Giants, prior to his introductory preseason matchup and training camp practice, there have been a number of unforeseen circumstances that have rendered the start of his tenure very unusual and burdensome.
And sadly, none of them are his fault whatsoever.
Let’s take this obstacle by obstacle, shall we?
Sure, Judge is nowhere near the only head coach to enter an organization that’s struggled mightily for quite some time. The reason teams hire new coaches, for the most part, is because they’ve been unsuccessful for a number of years. It happens, and it’s happened with the Giants, an organization that won just 12 games from 2017-19 and is performing in an impatient New York market with an apprehensive fanbase.
A new head coach stepping foot into what’s been a recently underachieving franchise isn’t abnormal. Nonetheless, it’s definitely a challenge for the young Judge. He’s not the one who’s made some of the head-scratching moves Dave Gettleman has constructed over the last couple years, but he still must inherit them as he prepares for the 2020 campaign.
Then, there’s the fact that a global pandemic is existent, which places him in a pool of just five NFL head coaches who’ve had to deal with that while joining new teams this year — himself, Matt Rhule, Ron Rivera, Mike McCarthy, and Kevin Stefanski. And by the way, out of those five, he’s one of just two that have never led a coaching staff at any level before — himself and Stefanski.
So not only does Judge need to become accustomed to working with his new personnel and coworkers, he must accomplish the task in a virtual setting where technical and organizational difficulties may arise.
Meetings along with workouts must be carried out on Zoom or any other variety of platform that permits conversation via video chat. This evidently assembles a tough situation for Judge in terms of connecting with any of his new players ahead of what’s a crucial year for Big Blue.
Taking on a new role within the confines of a new organization is rarely simple, and the fact that Judge must do it under the circumstances COVID-19 has introduced forces it to be that much more strenuous of a task.
And finally, there’s the DeAndre Baker situation.
On the night of the 2019 NFL Draft, Judge was with the Patriots ahead of what would be his final campaign in Foxborough, working for an organization that used the final pick of the opening round to choose wideout N’Keal Harry. That same evening, Baker, a standout corner from Georgia who won the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award for the top defensive back in college football, was chosen by the Giants at No. 30 overall.
Ever since, Baker has succumbed to on-field struggles, been called out for not portraying enough effort, and was a “handful” during his rookie year — two players’ reported words, not mine.
Now, Baker is dealing with accusations of armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm and is charged with four counts of each.
The Giants have reportedly told Baker to refrain from meetings while he works out this matter, which is the correct move to make. Nonetheless, it remains a situation that Judge must deal with as the leader of this coaching staff. Figuring out when Baker can return to team activities — virtual or not — is still a decision Judge must participate in making.
If the legal matter isn’t resolved in a timely manner, then the Giants may end up having to partake in regular-season matchups without one of their slated starting cornerbacks, another situation Judge would need to manage despite the fact that he didn’t have anything to do with the original draft pick.
Getting thrown into the fire as a new head coach is one thing. That’s something that happens in this league every single year. But getting thrown into the fire as a rookie head coach during a global pandemic and, on top of that, having one of your slated defensive starters face some heavy-duty charges? Well, that’s the challenging spot Judge resides in at the moment.
Not that he’ll use any of them at all, but Judge carries a number of excuses at his disposal. With how Big Blue has performed in recent years along with everything that’s transpired since his early January hire, the 38-year-old is dealing with a bizarre, unexpected, and overall laborious beginning to his Giants tenure.