Joe Judge didn’t pause this long at any point during his 11-minute postgame soliloquy on Sunday.
But the embattled Giants coach hesitated a good six seconds before answering this highly interesting question with a highly revealing answer.
A day after his Giants made Chicago look like the 1985 Bears in a 29-3 loss at Soldier Field, Judge was asked this: If he were on another team scouting the Giants, would he think this is a well-coached team?
You’d have thought the Zoom call went dead between the end of the question and the beginning of his answer.
"I would," Judge finally said. "There’s obviously things we need to do better. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re perfect in anything. I’m not going to go through a diagnosis of our team . . . I’m not going to throw players under the bus."
He added that he has "seen a lot of improvement in our players in a lot of different ways, and sometimes not all that is magnified. I’m confident [in] the way we’re pushing forward right now. Obviously, the most important thing in this league is winning, so we have to do a better job putting ourselves in a position of winning."
Look, no one should expect Judge to acknowledge that he presides over a poorly coached team, not when he is the coach and not when his job is on the line this early in his tenure. But the results suggest that this is anything but a well-coached team.
Even with a lineup beset by injuries, starting with quarterback Daniel Jones’ season-ending neck problem, good coaches find ways to remain competitive. Remember when Bill Parcells lost Vinny Testaverde in the first game of the 1999 season, when the Jets had hopes of getting to a Super Bowl? He patched things together with third-stringer Ray Lucas, who won six of his last eight games to get the Jets to 8-8.
Judge’s team is a non-functional group at this point, and we simply haven’t seen any improvement whatsoever. Judge insists the culture is better inside the building, but who cares about culture when the record is 4-12, when they’ve lost five straight by ever-widening margins and when they come off a game in which they finished with minus-10 net yards passing? Minus-10!
The defense has been good in spots, but not against the league’s better teams. They didn’t stand a chance against Tom Brady’s Buccaneers (who were nearly beaten by the Jets on Sunday) and the Chargers. They turned Andy Dalton into Sid Luckman at Soldier Field.
Team president and co-owner John Mara desperately wants to avoid firing a third straight coach after just two seasons, but Judge has painted Mara into a corner from which there is no easy escape.
Mara can make the deeply unpopular decision to keep Judge beyond this season, using the injuries as an excuse to give him one more chance. Or he can add Judge to a list that already includes Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur and look for his fourth coach since 2015.
Mara knows that is not a workable plan for an NFL team, that simply firing coaches willy-nilly is not a sustainable way of doing business.
When he hired him, Mara thought Judge was a latter-day version of Bill Parcells or Tom Coughlin or Bill Belichick. He felt Judge’s apprenticeships under Belichick in New England and Nick Saban at Alabama would serve him well and lead to a long and fruitful Giants tenure.
It simply hasn’t been the case.
Judge made a convincing case to fans during his opening news conference nearly two years ago, promising he would build a team the New York area could be proud of, a team that would fight for 60 minutes and reflect the region’s blue-collar toughness. But he is 10-22 after nearly two full seasons, and no matter how much time Judge spends talking about his vision for the team — and he talked more than 11 minutes non-stop in one answer on Sunday — there is simply no spinning his way out of the reality: This is a brutally bad football team, and the Giants are in one of their darkest periods in the nearly 100-year history of the franchise.
Judge had never been a head coach at any level before Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch took a chance on him. That inexperience is showing on a team that has featured the NFL’s worst offense the last two seasons, with or without Jones.
Judge ranted about the Giants quitting on Pat Shurmur late in the 2019 season, when the team actually won two of its last three games before Shurmur was fired. He appeared to take a shot at Washington coach Ron Rivera when he said his team wasn’t fighting on the sideline, which two Washington players did last week. And don’t forget that Judge’s Giants had a bench-clearing brawl in a training camp practice in August.
Giants fans who show up on Sunday for the regular-season finale might not take kindly to the home team and to the coach as they conclude another miserable season.
And shortly thereafter, Mara will have to decide what to do with a coach who has lost the fan base after a dreary two-year run.
Perhaps Mara should heed the words of the two greatest coaches in franchise history. Maybe that will convince him it’s time to move on from Judge.
One of Coughlin’s most trusted phrases: "Talk is cheap. Play the game."
And from Parcells: "You are what your record says you are."