INDIANAPOLIS – Joe Judge turned around and pointed to a wall in the Indiana Convention Center on Tuesday.
“Our depth chart is on that board right there right now,” the new head coach of the Giants declared.
The wall was empty. No matter how much squinting and staring took place, there was nothing to see. And no matter how much reporters pried and contorted their questions regarding any of the players on the team, there was nothing to hear. Even when he Judge was asked about quarterback Daniel Jones’ status.
Especially when Judge was asked about Jones’ status.
And that was his point.
“No one’s got a spot,” Judge declared.
Does that mean that the Giants are abandoning ship on Jones after just one season? Could the Giants use a top six pick on a quarterback for the second straight year? Are the Giants receivers who have been working out with Jones this offseason wasting their time?
Should all of New York finally learn how to properly pronounce Tua Tagovailoa?
Hardly. Because the Giants’ insistence on not publicly crowning Jones as their starting quarterback, their franchise quarterback, or even a member of their 2020 roster, had nothing to do with Jones. And the most likely scenario – to the point of calling it a near certainty -- is that barring an injury Jones will be the Giants’ starter on opening day in September.
Tuesday’s stand, therefore, was more about sticking to the core beliefs that Judge has brought to the Giants. It was about his philosophy that no individual player is more or less important than any other. It was about Judge speaking to the locker room and the entire roster a month and a half before the team will first assemble to hear him in person on April 6 at the start of the offseason program.
It was also the first real glimpse into the way that Nick Saban and Bill Belichick have shaped his thinking.
“I’m not going to establish any status or hierarchy within the player or position groups by spending a month talking about individuals,” Judge said. “That’s important to me.”
Judge even had the man who drafted Jones, was panned for it at the time, and had every right to be gloating over the pick, relegating the quarterback to everyman status. Sort of. General manager Dave Gettleman played along with Judge’s semantics, even if his stance was slightly more transparent. He spoke on Tuesday about building the team up around (and more importantly in front of) Jones.
“Last time I checked it’s really difficult to complete a pass when you are on your back,” Gettleman said. “You’ve got to give (Jones) a front that allows him to learn how to play the game.”
But when it came to labeling Jones as the starter or projecting his role on this team, Gettleman gave answers that were more cute than concrete.
“Who was the guy who took the last snap in the last game?” Gettleman asked when peppered about Jones’ status.
It was Jones.
“Ok,” Gettleman said. “So that answers the question… Let it go.”
Gettleman has been around enough to know that won’t happen. Judge may be about to learn that.
“I understand and respect the outside perspective,” Judge said when warned that his lack of direct public confidence in Jones could be construed as lack of confidence period. “What’s important to me is the guys inside that building understand why I am doing things and that I have their best interest at heart.”
There are other issues at play, too. If the Giants are interested in trading the fourth overall pick – Gettleman said they are “open for business” – then having the world know for certain they will not be drafting a quarterback diminishes their bargaining position. It may be a microscopic possibility, but it would exist. Heck, just last year the Cardinals took a quarterback in the first round a year after they took a different quarterback in the first round.
Jones is sure to catch wind of all this hullabaloo. He’ll most likely blow it off. Maybe he will use it for its intended purposes, to drive him to prove himself on April 6 and every day after.
But what if he takes it as a slight? Could the Giants be alienating their most important player by not admitting that he is their most important player?
“He'll understand over time how much we’re going to support all of the players,” Judge said confidently. “They’ll all understand that.”
It’ll be as clear as the writing on the blank wall.