Joe Judge talked about the significance of honoring legends of the past, of paying homage to the people who gave the Giants some of their greatest moments and meant so much to building the foundation of one of pro sports oldest franchises.
He spoke of Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan in glowing terms, exalting him as one of the team’s iconic players who helped transform his team into champions.
"We’re always big on the history of the organization," Judge said a few minutes after the Giants’ 13-7 win over the Eagles on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, where the team honored Strahan at halftime by retiring his No. 92. "We talked about the area, the people you represent and the history of the organization, who came before us and who we represent."
And then Judge boiled things down to a much more basic dynamic of what this game meant to a team desperately clinging to life at 4-7.
Without the flowery language.
"To be honest with you, when you’ve got a guy being honored like that," he said, "you don’t want to go out there and lay an egg."
Now there’s something we all can relate to, especially in the case of a Giants team that has struggled to find respectability in a season gone mostly bad and after a week in which the offensive coordinator was fired.
Judge’s decision to move on from Jason Garrett didn’t bear immediate dividends, as the Giants were limited to a touchdown and two field goals.
But it was fitting that on this day, against this team, when this player was honored before a sellout crowd of the fans he once captivated, his former team put together a mostly remarkable performance on defense to pull out the win.
Strahan regularly feasted on Eagles quarterbacks during his 15-year run from 1993-2007, and he watched as today’s team dominated Jalen Hurts.
The Giants came up with three interceptions against Hurts, who had only five picks in his previous 11 games, and forced a key fourth-quarter fumble by noted Giants-killer Boston Scott to preserve the win and keep alive — albeit barely — their faint playoff hopes.
"Those [Giants defensive players] are conscious of that, very conscious of the people who came before us," Judge said. "Very conscious of the players who have made an impact for this team over the years. The only pictures we have in the building are former players, so yeah, we don’t need a bunch of motivational sayings. We’ve got the [New York City] boroughs, the areas of north Jersey to know the area. Who and where — that’s all that’s important."
Strahan, not only a wonderful player who broke Lawrence Taylor’s franchise record with 141 ½ career sacks and led the Giants to a Super Bowl in his final season, was ever the showman once more. He ran onto the field for his halftime introduction, delivered a spine-tingling speech, re-enacted his "Stomp You Out!" dance and also offered hope to Giants fans suffering through a decade’s worth of disappointment since their last Super Bowl run in 2011.
As fans began to boo when Strahan thanked the Mara and Tisch families for his time in New York, Strahan interrupted them and screamed into the microphone.
"I’ve got to say this," he said. "Every team has their ups and downs. But the New York Giants have won Super Bowls. There are teams that have never [won any]. Appreciate what you got! And we will be back! We will be up again! I guarantee you that!"
The crowd roared its approval.
And then they cheered today’s team, a far-from-elite group that still is not good enough on offense after Garrett’s ouster but was good enough on defense against an Eagles team that had won three of its previous four.
The Eagles made them sweat it out with Scott’s fourth-quarter touchdown — his sixth career score against the Giants — to make it 10-7. And at 13-7, Hurts still had two chances to drive for the winning score. But the Giants stopped them both times, first when Dexter Lawrence forced Scott to fumble and then when Hurts’ long pass to Jalen Reagor near the goal line went through his hands and fell incomplete.
It was an imperfect win by an imperfect team, but a celebratory ending on a day to honor one of the Giants’ all-time greats.
With Strahan in the house, at least they didn’t lay an egg.