For a guy who finished 6-10 and out of the playoffs in his first year as the Giants’ coach, Joe Judge has done a fine job endearing himself to management, players and fans.
But he saved his best for last on Monday, marking his final public comments of the season by delivering a blunt, thinly veiled broadside aimed at the Eagles and their Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson.
It was shocking, deliciously so. Sure, the guy is a couple of Super Bowl trophies short at the moment, but he seems to be attempting to channel Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin.
Someone at NFL headquarters had better pencil in the Giants and Eagles for a prime-time game in Week 1, preferably at MetLife Stadium.
The fun came late on a day that began with Judge’s players regurgitating his talking points when asked about the Eagles giving away a 20-14 game to Washington on Sunday night, thus costing the Giants a playoff berth.
When asked about the Eagles’ approach, Judge initially said he would not judge them. He reiterated the stuff about not winning often enough to keep matters in their own hands.
In an impassioned 90 seconds, he indirectly let Pederson have it, in particular citing the extreme sacrifices players made in navigating a pandemic-challenged season.
"To me, you don’t ever want to disrespect those players and their effort, disrespect the game," Judge said.
He spoke of players having to get tested for COVID-19, of sitting spaced out in meetings, of wearing masks and protective shields, of travel challenges, of early-morning text messages canceling practices, of being asked to limit or avoid holiday gatherings.
And this: " ‘We know it’s your wife’s birthday; let’s make sure we put that one off to the offseason.’ There’s a number of sacrifices that have been made by all of the players and coaches in this league. There’s a number of sacrifices that have come along as well, with the family members and people connected with them.
"To disrespect the effort that everyone put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win, we will never do that as long as I’m the head coach of the New York Giants."
Just to make himself clear, he put extra oomph into the word "never."
It was a dramatic finale to 19 hours of controversy after Pederson removed Jalen Hurts in the fourth quarter and replaced him with the spectacularly ineffective Nate Sudfeld at quarterback.
The decision rated a 10 on the social media and sports talk radio yak-ometer. Several current and former Giants players expressed their displeasure on social media during the game.
Look, those with the most right to be aggrieved were Pederson’s own players.
Same goes for the league, which battled its way through a COVID-19 obstacle course, then flexed the finale so NBC would get to show a meaningful game, only to see the fourth quarter turn into a non-competitive debacle.
But the Giants and their fans? That was more complicated. It is natural for them to be frustrated, but spare us the complaints. You won six games. SIX!
The Dolphins won 10 and missed out even with an expanded postseason field. Had the Dolphins won Sunday, the Colts would have been out despite 11 wins.
The Giants had their chances, squandered them and now are toast.
Judge acknowledged all that, as he should have. But he is hoping for a long run here, and by speaking up the way he did, he gave players and their fans — as well as the Eagles — something to think about over the next eight months.
Let’s give the final words here to receiver Darius Slayton:
"You know what tho that’s just fuel to the fire we comin back next year with a vengeance #TogetherBlue"
Judge is counting on that.