Joe Judge believes he need not look far to cast blame on the Giants’ 1-5 record. He simply looks at himself.
"I’m the head coach," Judge told reporters before Thursday’s practice. "It’s my responsibility, point blank. Every player on this field, every position group, the execution, it all comes down to me."
The bottom line:
"The fish stinks from the head down," Judge said. "I’ve been taught that by great guys I’ve worked for and played for. There’s no excuses."
The Giants have been a mess from the start of the season, losing three straight games to teams they were capable of beating — Denver, Washington and Atlanta — to get into an 0-3 hole. They summoned their best effort of the season in a dramatic 27-21 overtime win in New Orleans before being blown out in consecutive games by the Cowboys and Rams by a combined score of 82-31.
No matter that the Giants have been ravaged by injuries to running back Saquon Barkley, left tackle Andrew Thomas and wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney. Forget that quarterback Daniel Jones missed most of the Cowboys game with a concussion and was way off his game against the Rams.
Judge says put it on him.
All of it.
"There’s no exceptions," he said. "You demand [accountability] of your coaches to make sure players are playing the right way. You demand it of your players about what to do, and they have to go out there and do it. But it starts with me and ends with me."
Judge tried to offer reassurance to Giants fans on Monday, roughly 24 hours after walking off the field following a hideous 38-11 loss to the Rams in which his team was non-competitive.
"This is definitely going to get better," he told reporters. "I can assure everyone out there that’s a Giants fan and they want to know when it’s going to turn, I can tell them right now we’re working tirelessly to make sure we get this thing turned around in the right direction, not just for short-term results, but for long-term success."
Judge doesn’t appear in danger of becoming the third straight Giants coach to be fired after just two seasons. But if there is a change at general manager — and it appears virtually certain that Dave Gettleman won’t be back next year — Judge’s situation could be complicated by the hiring of a new GM.
But the coach isn’t thinking about his long-term situation. And he insists he feels no outside pressure in facing what lies ahead.
"To me, the only time you really feel any kind of pressure and nerves is when you’re unprepared," he said. "If you’re prepared and you go through the tasks and process at hand and you’re consistent with it, then you go in with confidence. That is what we preach to our guys. We come out here and practice every week, prepare a certain way every week. We have to go out there better and execute better to have the results that we want."
The Giants will face the Panthers at home on Sunday, and a win would go a long way toward taking at least some of the heat off the coach.
Carolina has lost three straight after a 3-0 start and is without star running back Christian McCaffrey, who has a hamstring injury. It gets no easier after that, though, with games in Kansas City (on Monday Night Football) and then at home against the Raiders.
Despite the on-field struggles, Judge hasn’t lost the respect of those around him.
"Joe’s our leader," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. "We all look to our leader for strength. He’s done a hell of a job of keeping the team moving forward."
"The beauty of Joe is this — consistency," defensive coordinator Pat Graham said. "The emotional consistency, the stamina, the emotional stamina to be the same every day. That’s why he’s a good leader. Joe is as consistent as I’ve ever seen him. Never too up, never too down. I think that’s the big thing he has displayed so far."
Nevertheless, he needs to start displaying some wins before long. Taking ownership of the team’s failure is commendable, especially for a no-nonsense coach who demands excellence from his players. But Judge can talk all he wants about being responsible for his team’s shoddy record. If the results don’t improve, the Giants might not be willing to tolerate a fish that stinks for much longer.