To almost everyone who saw Kenny Golladay screaming on the sidelines late in the fourth quarter of last Thursday’s 30-29 loss to the Washington Football Team, it looked as if the Giants’ newly signed wide receiver was completely out of line. A moment that made you think that perhaps the Giants had made a mistake investing $72 million in the former Lions’ wideout.
But Joe Judge saw something else.
Judge basically saw himself in the powder keg of emotion that Golladay was in that moment.
"Maybe it’s because of where I’m from," said Judge, who grew up outside Philadelphia and reflects that Philly tough-guy mentality. "I talk with my hands a lot."
He also yells a lot. And swears a lot.
"I’ve got to apologize [in advance] to certain people on the sidelines," Judge said. "I’ve got to tell them, ‘Whatever I say, don’t take it personally.’"
He didn’t take Golladay’s outburst personally – even if it wasn’t directed at the head coach. And even if it was aimed at one of Judge’s top assistants.
At first, it appeared Golladay was berating quarterback Daniel Jones, who had sat down in the bench area to discuss strategy with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Jones was quick to defuse the situation after the game – one of the most impactful of his young career – and Judge didn’t make a big deal of it.
"I’ve talked to both players," Judge said the day after the game, which dropped the Giants to 0-2. "Everyone’s kind of dismissed everything. Guys have a good relationship. They work well together. I don’t really see any issue there."
The only thing is that Golladay wasn’t yelling at Jones. The target of his ire was Garrett, who has come under fire for his play-calling through much of his one-plus season as the Giants’ offensive coordinator. And if it surprised Giants’ fans frustrated by yet another slow start to the season, it stunned Golladay.
"Really, I’ve never done anything like that," he said. "I let the emotions get the best of me."
After Golladay cleared up any confusion by identifying Garrett, and not Jones, he insisted there were no ill feelings. "That’s two competitive guys right there," Golladay said. "More so, just me wanting to do anything I can. Not so much, ‘Give me the ball more,’ though. Me and him spoke right after the game. It was literally nothing."
Actually, it was something, and it most certainly bears watching moving forward. After all, losing teams can become undone by internal bickering, and if there are additional dustups, then there’s a bigger problem. For now, though, the head coach has absolved Golladay.
"To me, speaking with emotion and fighting are two different things," Judge said. "I love the way Kenny competes. He’s got a lot of fire to be successful."
The Giants can use all the help they can get to be successful. Judge had hoped to avoid the kind of 0-5 start that put his team in a deep hole last year, but at 0-2 and with the schedule about to get far more difficult, Sunday’s game against the Falcons at MetLife Stadium is about as must-win as a situation can be in Week 3.
Judge therefore sees Golladay more as a part of the solution, not the problem.
"It’s ‘Hey, I can do this. Give me a chance on this type of route,’" Judge said of what appeared to be a Golladay diatribe against Garrett. "We know the difference."
And make no mistake: This will not be the last incidence of sideline pique you’ll see from Judge’s team. He is cut from the same cloth as another volatile coach who once roamed the sidelines around here. And if Judge turns out to be anything like Bill Parcells, whose shouting matches with Phil Simms and other Giants players during his Hall of Fame run were the stuff of legend, then this thing will eventually turn around.
But until – and unless – that day comes, then these outbursts will be viewed from a different prism as the ones that defined one of the most successful eras in franchise history.
Yell and scream all you want. If you don’t win, you don’t deserve the benefit of doubt.