New York Giants rookie head coach Joe Judge has handled every challenge thrown his way with the poise of a veteran.
It’s remained the most significant question since even before the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated all offseason team activities and canceled the NFL preseason.
While all head coaches and teams have needed to experience the unusual coronavirus-related circumstances, Judge has additionally had two of his starters — cornerback DeAndre Baker and placekicker Aldrick Rosas — undergo legal issues.
The Giants cut Rosas and signed kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Baker, on the other hand, may have his Big Blue tenure come to an end — he was officially charged with four counts of armed robbery with a firearm.
But wait…there’s more.
Left tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Sam Beal have both opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns. While Judge and the team respect both Solder and Beal’s decisions, both situations undeniably affect the organization.
All of these circumstances would be difficult for any head coach to deal with, let alone one who just began his head coaching career around seven months ago. But Judge has dealt with each issue head-on and hasn’t lost focus on the task at hand, which is to prepare his team for the upcoming season.
Last week, the Giants were on the practice field undergoing various drills and walkthroughs to prepare their bodies for the first padded practice scheduled for Aug. 17.
Judge was asked what the biggest challenge was in regard to coordinating the walkthroughs.
“Look, I’ll be very honest with you, the other day was the first time I’ve been in a walkthrough where instead of being directly related to a specific group or running a period at a time, you’re walking around observing everything,” he said. “By the time we got to our second walkthrough, look, my natural tendency is to be very hands-on, so I find my way to groups and I know what I wanted to get across to different players. There’s definitely a lot of coordination that goes on.”
Safety is first and foremost on everyone’s mind. Teams are installing protocols to prevent players and staff members from catching the virus. The NFL still plans to commence its regular season on time, but that could change if everyone doesn’t follow the crucial directions.
“The first thing we have to all understand is, everyone at this level has sacrificed to get here,” Judge said. “We’re going to have to make some more sacrifices, whether that’s socially away from the game, how we interact with friends and family members throughout this season. But we have to make the right decisions.”
“The biggest thing is everyone has to understand that all of our decisions directly impact each other. It’s not fair for me to go out and do something and put myself at risk and come in here and get players sick. That’s not my right. I’m not entitled to do that. We have to all make the right decisions, both in the building following the protocols and away from the building.”
One thing we’ve learned from Judge is that he’s a straight shooter; he says what’s on his mind. His statements are seemingly genuine and unrehearsed, which is probably why he seems to have a firm grasp on the direction he wants his team to follow and how he’s been able to function as well as he has under these circumstances.
When the Giants hired the 38-year-old back in January, many didn’t know much about him other than the fact that he coached under both Nick Saban at Alabama and Bill Belichick in New England.
We won’t be able to truly access Judge’s head coaching abilities until his team takes the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 14. But as of right now, he’s shown the poise and command required to change the culture of the franchise and make the Giants a proud organization once again.