Joe Judge has made a quick and lasting imprint on just about every aspect of Giants football during his tenure as coach so far. From the pace and tone of practices to the structure of meetings to the way the players and assistant coaches deal with questions from the media, it’s been clear who is in charge. Even the final decisions on the roster that played out in recent days seemed to stem from Judge’s philosophies and criteria more than from anyone else in the building. He has been hands on in molding the organization to fit his vision and making them indisputably his team.
But that ends now.
As the Giants start to finalize their gameplan for Monday night’s opener against the Steelers, Judge has vowed to take a step back from the process. Rather than dictate how he wants things to go, he’s become more of a listener and an approver than an autocrat.
They may be the Fightin’ Joe Judges, as general manager Dave Gettleman coined the team’s attitude derived from their coach last week, but the plannin’ has been purely collaborative.
“Obviously I’m involved with all sides of the ball,” Judge said on Wednesday. “I’m very involved with the day-to-day operation. I’m very involved with how the game is going to be unfolding. I want to be informed with how the game is going to be called… But I’m not there to micromanage. We hired good playcallers, we brought in good players, we’re going to let them do what they do.”
That’s not an entirely new approach to leading a team, but it’s one the Giants haven’t had in a while. Their last two coaches also served as offensive play-callers, duties that many in and outside the organization felt took away from their ability to see the big picture. Judge is a CEO, and this is the first week in which that power structure will be on full display.
It’s a process that includes everyone from the coordinators and position coaches as well as the guys on the field who have to implement the schemes. Daniel Jones, in other words, will have quite a bit of say in what the Giants’ offense looks like on Monday night and in the weeks that follow.
“My role is to try to understand what we’re trying to execute, certainly to talk through things, and to get an idea of what I like and what I think works in the plan,” Jones said.
Judge said the input from the players is one of the most important aspects of developing a gameplan.
“What you find with players is when you present them with the why and how you want it to look, a lot of times they find a better way for what they are supposed to do,” Judge said. “You really learn a lot from the players… Our players understand the final decision has to come from the coaches, but we’re always receptive to what the players say because we know they are the ones on the field. We want our players to play aggressive by being comfortable with what we’re asking them to do.”
Tuesdays are generally the day of the NFL week when coaches are buried in bunkers coming up with the coveted gameplan for the upcoming foe, and the Giants spent their Tuesday doing just that. It was the first time this staff embarked on such an effort, and Judge said it was “a very productive day.”
But the schemes they emerged with are far from finalized.
“We’re not done with the game-planning process yet,” Judge said. “This continues throughout the entire week. We’ll have four days on the field this week to look at some different things, see how we like it, make sure we are planning things that we’re comfortable with… Ultimately as you get to the end of the week, you have to check with your signal callers on all sides of the ball to make sure the whole team is on the same page and make sure everyone is comfortable with the game plan.”
Only then will it become Joe Judge’s. Only then will it become the Giants’.