Joe Judge was in the middle of his postgame Zoom news conference a week ago, after the Giants beat the Eagles, and was talking about how the players had improved in their fundamentals. That’s when he couldn’t take it any longer. He stopped and glared off to the side.
"Whoever’s got that, turn that off!" he huffed at a crew from the visiting team that was setting up for their own broadcast, apparently too noisily for Judge’s liking and too close to his own event. "Just turn that off!"
Then he turned back to the camera, apologized for the interruption and went right back to that fundamentals line of thinking.
There have been a number of moments this season that have illustrated what Joe Judge has brought to the Giants. He had the players running laps in training camp, benched Golden Tate for selfishly wanting more targets in the passing game, and fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo this past week because he balked at a redefined role on the staff (and hurled some salty language at his boss that was just as unacceptable to Judge).
But those three seconds last Sunday — when Judge was bothered by something, stopped everything, corrected it and moved forward — probably best encapsulate the man the Giants hired to straighten out their franchise.
By almost all accounts, he’s doing just that.
"I think Coach Judge has turned this place around," said defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who spent half of last season with the previous regime led by Pat Shurmur and the past 10 games under the new management. "He’s doing a great job."
The Giants are only one game better than they were a year ago at this time, their 3-7 record a marginal improvement on the 2-8 where they once stood. Having everyone else in the division stink and the Giants in the middle of contention for the NFC East title certainly helps that record sting less, but something else makes that almost imperceptible disparity in the records seem like an ocean of difference.
"Joe has been a part of a lot of winning programs," said Giants safety Jabrill Peppers, who, having played for the Browns and Giants, has not. "All we had to do was buy in. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy . . . You have to stay bought in because it’s going to turn. And we’ve felt that."
Judge has said he is building the team to reflect the tough, gritty area it represents in New York and New Jersey. In reality, he is building it in his own likeness.
"He brought that attitude to where we’re going to be tough, we’re going to work hard, we’re going to prepare the right way," defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence said. "Coach Judge, I applaud him because he’s really building a strong culture right now. That’s what he came in to do and that’s what we all needed, this culture that he’s bringing."
"This is definitely a coach that wants to win and puts the team first and always does what’s best for everybody," guard Will Hernandez said. "You can definitely get behind a guy like that . . . He’s very, very hard on the big things, the main things, and also the little things just as much. I think that’s what it takes exactly to be a great team and have a great team."
The Giants aren’t there yet. They’ve won three games, haven’t beaten anyone outside of their lowly division, and have six games remaining to make something of this season.
Judge, though, insists he isn’t focusing on how this year will end. He repeatedly has said he is looking more toward building the Giants into perennial winners and contenders, laying the foundation for what he envisions as years of success.
It’s why he wants everyone in the building — players and coaches — to focus on small improvements. Details. The ones that accumulate into character.
That includes himself. Judge said he thinks he has improved in his time management during the first 10 weeks of the season. Considering he had never been a head coach in his life before this season, it’s been a steep learning curve.
"Early in the season, you try to do everything on the front end of the week to be completely ahead of everything," he said. "You work ahead a good deal to give yourself a jump-start. But you have to kind of pace your time throughout the week.
"What I found early on was it was taking away a little bit from my interactions with players; maybe I was not able to sit in with different coaching game-planning meetings by trying to bombard everything on the front end of the week and have all the answers.
"I’ve kind of pulled back a little bit in terms of everything on the front end spread out throughout the rest of the week, and I’ve been able to kind of just time-manage a little bit better. I think that’s something that’s helped me personally a good deal as far as managing each day."
As for what he wants to improve on the rest of the year, well, his answer was simple.
"Everything," he said. "Absolutely everything."
And if he doesn’t like what he sees or hears along the way, he’ll simply stop, fix it and go back to talking about fundamentals. Just as he did during that news conference last week.
Probably without an apology, though.