Joe Judge comes from a place where winning two games in a row just means you probably lost the first of the last three you played. So forgive him for dousing a bit of the euphoria that Giants fans may be feeling after Sunday’s 27-17 victory over the Eagles. It was their biggest win in ages, and it gave them their first legitimate whiff of playoff contention in years, but Judge wasn’t impressed.
He wasn’t here for those tribulations, for all of the heartache and disappointment and frustration that the area’s football observers — whether you wear blue or green — have endured for the better part of the past decade. He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, all in the time since the Giants earned their last postseason win.
In his mind, it’s the middle of November, he has a three-win team that hasn’t beaten anyone with a winning record and they are still in second place with six challenging games ahead.
But the first-year coach does have a message to those who might want to celebrate what the Giants have "accomplished" in the past two weeks, and it might even add to the delight.
That point? That this is only the beginning.
On a day when many talking heads around the league were waking up to how good the Giants are despite their record, Judge was thinking only about how good they can become.
"I wouldn’t stop short and say, ‘We’ve arrived,’ " he said Monday. "I don’t think we ever want to look at something and say, ‘OK, we’ve gotten to the point where we want to be at.’ There is a lot of improvement we have to keep making. There are a lot of things we have to clean up."
He also refuses to acknowledge – publicly or to the team – that the Giants are in a good spot in a bad division. He will not point to the NFC East standings, which he called "irrelevant" on Sunday (but which may be of utmost importance as the season winds down).
"We can’t go ahead and start looking at rankings and division races and all that type of stuff," he said Monday. "We just have to focus on getting better each week, and that’s what will ultimately help us in the long run."
That’s not to say he’s such a party pooper that he won’t allow his players to think about the division.
"One of my core beliefs is that motivation is an individual thing but as long as you are working for something and it collectively raises the team, that’s a positive thing," he said. "Look, it’s professional football. I don’t care if a guy is working for a paycheck or a guy is working for a championship; if both guys come out and they are giving their best every day, that’s going to make the team better. Whatever motivates these guys, that’s great. My job as the head coach is to make sure that they understand the big-picture goal."
That, he said, is being the best team they can be at the end of the season.
Still, Judge allowed himself to be pleased with how the Giants are playing now.
"On a weekly basis, I have seen a lot of improvement from our team," he said. "To me it’s most evident when you turn the tape on. There are several plays from [Sunday] that really encapsulate what I want our players to show everyone who watches that tape, and it’s important that they look at it."
He mentioned how the offensive line pushed the Eagles into the end zone and allowed Wayne Gallman to sail over the top of them all and into the end zone for a touchdown. He noted how the defense was able to get off the field without allowing any third-down conversions and forcing two fourth-down fails by the Eagles late in the fourth quarter. He also cited how the special teams have been covering kicks and establishing field position. He said he saw "effort" and "urgency."
Judge also saw something that told him it is all clicking. He watched how the Giants scored their touchdowns as any coach would, but he also analyzed what they did after those plays.
"When our players score, we’re running into the end zone and celebrating with them," Judge said. "That’s important to me. It’s not a hot dog thing, but we don’t want individualistic celebrations . . . We want the team celebrating together and acknowledging that it takes all 11 on the field every time to be successful and it takes everyone on the sideline as well to be a part of it, to be collectively successful."
See? Judge knows when there is something to get excited about and revel in.
It’s just that a two-game winning streak isn’t it.