Nick Gates handled himself pretty well. Cam Fleming fought hard. The defense played well.
These are all observations Joe Judge shared publicly after Monday night’s 26-16 loss to the Steelers.
They’re also vaguely true and a bit misleading to anyone who actually watched or rewatched the performance.
Judge knows that, too.
It’s nearly impossible to find an instance since he was hired as the head coach of the team when Judge has been openly critical or unsupportive of a player. Yes, he noted immediately after the opening contest that interceptions of the kind Daniel Jones threw against the Steelers are "unacceptable" and that Saquon Barkley and the running game need improvement. But it’s going to take a lot more than a 10-point loss to a Super Bowl contender team to get Judge to malign any of his guys.
"I don’t think you’re going to see too much different from me than you’ve seen already, if that paints a little bit of a picture for you," he said of how he handles questions about players who are not up to snuff. "I kind of am who I am every day."
To be fair, there were times when Gates and Fleming and others who struggled did play well. The Giants were not abysmal. They were four yards and an ugly interception away from taking the lead with about 17 minutes to play in the game. Glaring mistakes like turnovers Judge has no choice but to address. The ones below the surface he keeps buried with vaguaries such as "everyone has to play better," which he used on Tuesday.
His daily media offerings via Zoom offer only a redacted version of his opinions. It’s almost as if the mute button is never fully off on his panel.
Besides, that’s what his meetings with the players are for.
That’s where the Judge that we see flash his football fury in training camp practices and breathe fire through his mask on the sideline during games will emerge. And it is where the Giants players will get their first real taste of what kind of coach Judge is going to be.
Up until this week, there were no games to analyze and no mistakes in front of a few million viewers to account for. Win or lose, this week was always going to tell everyone a lot more about Judge than his preseason antics did. Now is when he rolls up his sleeves and has to get to work fixing what’s wrong.
"Internally we’ll address things, always," he said. "We’re very blunt and honest. We’re very transparent in this organization. We’ll always be very direct with what we have to correct."
The tone of those meetings will change depending on what the team needs at any given point in the season, Judge said.
"Sometimes a team needs encouraging, sometimes they need a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting," he said. "Whatever that week calls for, that’s what we’re going to go ahead and have."
Underlying all of it will be an effort to teach, which like heaping public praise on players who may or may not always deserve it, has been a mainstay of Judge’s tenure as well.
"Players don’t go out there and intentionally make mistakes, they don’t intentionally screw up," Judge said. "Whatever tone it requires to get the message across, we’d better be teaching them so when they leave that meeting it’s clear how they have to improve and what they have to correct going forward. That is the emphasis from me and every coach on this staff."
So what will the tone of the meeting be when the players return to the facility on Wednesday, review Monday’s game and start preparing for Sunday’s against the Bears?
"That’s classified," Judge said.
Filed among the other secret documents and opinions that no doubt paint the full picture of the abilities and weaknesses of this Giants team.