There was a point a few days ago when the Giants, as they sprint through this truncated preseason toward their opener in less than a month, were actually ahead of schedule. The players had completed all of their work in one of the scripted segments of the practice before the clock ran out on them, so they did what they would naturally do under such a tight deadline. They moved on to the next task.
Not so fast!
Joe Judge wouldn’t have it. He started yelling at the players to stop. Even though they finished one drill a minute earlier than expected, that was no reason to jump ahead. Those few precious seconds needed to be used for a quick breather, a chance to hydrate and an opportunity to discuss what had transpired with the coaches. And just about by the time his tirade was over, the loud horn sounded and it was time to move on to the next drill. Officially.
It was an example of the efficacy and precision that Judge has brought to the Giants in his first year as head coach, a proficiency that was finally on somewhat public display Monday when the team had its first practice open to reporters. It was a mixture of frantic action and smooth transitions, with the team often broken into two at different ends of the field firing off dueling snaps so Judge, standing at midfield, could watch one then turn and watch another.
He even had to hit the brakes on one of the split squads at one point so the snaps didn’t happen simultaneously.
“Hold that snap,” he said, raising his right hand while looking to his left like a traffic cop working a crazy intersection.
There was no wasted movement.
There was no wasted moment.
“We have a lot of moving parts, but our players understand that there’s a purpose in everything we’re doing,” Judge said. “We’re trying to make sure everybody maximizes the time on the field, maximizes our rep, and gives us a chance to evaluate everybody, and for them to improve on their individual techniques.”
Besides instilling his watchmaker’s eye for details, Judge also is using other tactics to mold the team, some of them familiar to those who have kept an eye on football in New England and other franchises where that philosophy has spread. He took players’ names off the backs of their practice jerseys. “We know who they are,” he said. He also has players – and coaches – running laps for mistakes.
It’s certainly a good sign that their first-time head coach is in complete control, that he is not overwhelmed. He steered the team through an offseason program like none other, and is continuing to guide the organization through a pandemic. Organizing a football practice should be a piece of cake.
But for it to be worth all of that planning and coordination, for the players to continue to buy into the pace and the pressure of the new hyped-up tempo, the Giants need to win.
“I think everybody is just in the mode of embracing this change and really going all-in on it,” receiver Sterling Shepard said. “I’m proud of the guys with the way they’ve been working. There are some things that are different. But like I said, we’re all embracing it. We know that we have to change in order to get on the right pace and get this team on the right speed.”
After years of losing football, maybe Judge can turn the Giants around just as easily as he himself spins 180 degrees to watch alternating ends of the field.