By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
Joe Judge has arrived.
(It’s too easy to say Here Comes the Judge!)
The area has been indoctrinated with enough of those campy 1970’s references to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge over the past few years.
But this will be a totally different scenario with the Giants’ rookie head coach. And it will be well worth it.
Judge certainly made his mark the first week of camp with players in pads who were in full contact drills. He had players and coaches –yes coaches – running laps for making mistakes.
It was a throwback to the days of the 1960’s and 70’s.
Old-school football, old-school hitting. Hard to imagine it happening in 2020 and in the age of CO-VID 19.
Judge instituted the legendary “nutcracker” drill reportedly coveted by Vince Lombardi in which an offensive player with the ball lines up five yards from defensive player on goal line. The ball carrier tries to run full speed through the defender, whose objective is to tackle him to the ground.
Critics refer to it as dangerous and insane with the rash of concussions and other crippling injuries on the radar. They may have their point, but so does Judge.
Yet, this should be refreshing. It was a complete reversal from last year’s lukewarm days under feeble Pat Shurmur. Ben McAdoo was supposed to be a tough Tom Coughlin clone who turned out to be an appeaser.
Remember, this is a Giants’ team whose 12-36 mark over the last three years is the worst in the league, and six of the last seven seasons have been losing ones.
The Bill Belichick disciple was a surprise hire and brought here as a taskmaster. Thinking about Coughlin or Bill Parcells yet? You should be. Judge’s unorthodox first steps could land him a stay similar to his predecessors.
Or will it?
Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe and former Patriot Ben Watson both don’t think Judge’s approach can have long-range benefits.
Judge simply has stayed the course.
“Everything we do has a purpose,” Judge told giants.com. “We’re very intent on explaining to our team why we’re doing things the way we’re doing them. I’m a big believer in educating our team in why we’re doing things.
“That we’re not just out there blindly winging it and trying to go ahead and force punishment. I explained the other day, when you make mistakes on the field, there are consequences. In the game, it’s penalty yards. At a practice, we have to understand that there are consequences for mistakes.”
Whether his cut-and-dry, disciplined concept will work is yet to be seen.
Saquon Barkley has given it an initial endorsement.
“I feel like the only way you can improve is by being coached,” said Barkley. Obviously, I’m not naïve to the fact that I was blessed with a tremendous talent,” Barkley said. “The way you improve on that is by focusing on little things, focus on the details and listen to your coaches.”
“I think it’s going to take everybody buying in,” added Sterling Shepard. “If we’re going to be the team we want to be, we have to buy into what Judge has in store for us. Don’t make mistakes. That’s how to get out of it.”
Focus on the little things and the details. It’s been the benchmark of historic and successful college and pro coaches over the years.
So far, Judge has made a strong first impression and assured the Giants got what they got paid for – a no-nonsense, young 38-year-old Turk who will make his players walk the line.
The gauge on Judge will turn a few more notches when the team has an intra-squad scrimmage Friday, one that will have the trimmings of a preseason game.
Like or dislike him, you have to appreciate Judge’s initial offerings. They’re direct, fresh, and reflective.
Judge does have a long way to go, and late October might be a better proving ground.
It will be interesting to see how the team reacts if they do get off to a slow start and some whispering and finger pointing starts.
No matter what, Judge will stick to his style.
The type that may generate some derisiveness from players and the base, but Coughlin and Parcells both endured their share on their way to Giants’ lore and some trophies in their back pockets.