On the eve of a new football season, New York Giants coach Joe Judge sat down with Big Blue View to discuss a wide array of topics. How he defines progress, learning from coaches in other sports, working for Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, why the organization supports Daniel Jones and more.
On the idea of progress
Win or lose, progress is something Judge talks about constantly. So, I asked him a two-part question about progress:
- How does he define it? Is it something he sees on film, on the field, around the building?
- What does progress look like in Year 2 of his coaching tenure?
“Year 2, the same fundamentals have to build a program. We still want a smart, tough, fundamentally sound football team that can play well under pressure. That’s what we’re trying to build, and we want that to be a consistent program, but the reality is you have to start over every year. You just have to. This year’s not the same as last year, this year’s team — including the players that were here last year — are not the same team.”
“Film, field, around the building I think they’re all key parts of it. You’re always evaluating everything in your program. There were a lot of rough spots last year, and I saw a ton of progress in the individual improvement of players, in the team collectively playing together and better, thus improving and not beating ourselves,” Judge said.
“There were a lot of marks that we could show them on tape. To me, I’m always about evidence to the players. Turning the tape on after a game and show ‘em, alright, this went wrong, here’s how we correct it. Or show ‘em, hey, this is where we’ve improved, we have to keep on this track, it’s gonna pay off. They can see visual evidence of what they’ve been working on and how it shows up in games, Judge said.
“Players have to learn how to practice. There’s a way we have to practice and we really teach our players that we’re training and you have to understand how to do it on a daily basis, how each drill is different and what’s expected,” Judge said. “To be honest with you, there was a point last year where I remember [quarterbacks coach] Jerry Schuplinski walking over and saying ‘hey, you know what, we’re practicing a lot better.’ … That’s kinda when we started going on our winning streak, that part of the year … It directly ties in, you can show that to the players. You see how we practice and you see how it carried over into the game, and they understand that there is a reason for everything, and there’s a reason we’re so particular on the details of it.”
In the building:
“Progress of developing a team and a culture, seeing how players hold each other accountable and understanding that how they prepare away from the building and seeing how it carries over into guys studying together, working together … you see the progress of guys really working to build something and not just doing what’s required, checking the box.”
On how he is trying to be better
Judge considers himself a teacher, and we talked about what he needs to do in order to become a better one.
“I’m always looking to improve. I spend a large part of the offseason not only researching the Xs and Os of football and watching the league and getting ready for the draft, but I spend a large part of it talking to different coaches on different levels, different sports and visiting with different leaders,” Judge said. “Talking to guys who lead Fortune 500 companies and having the opportunity to talk to some military leaders, and everything coming back to the same principles of how do you get your, whether it’s company, your military unit, your team, how do you get them to keep advancing? What are some roadblocks you’ve hit, how do you find ways through that?
“How have you created adversity for your team to overcome before they hit the real adversity in competition?” I’ve read a good bit of books, which sometimes you get good advice from that but I always prefer talking to people.
Judge did not offer names, but said he finds the insight of basketball coaches particularly useful.
“To me it’s very interesting when you talk to guys from other sports. I think we talk to guys, football coaches, all the time. To me it’s very interesting talking to basketball coaches. To be honest with you, a lot of the basketball coaches are dealing with a younger generation of player. They get to college younger. They have to play sooner. They get to the NBA younger. They have to player sooner. How they’ve dealt with the younger generation coming up, what are some of the differences they’ve seen, and then also the interaction with the young players and the older players,” Judge said. “I think it’s important to understand really the generations of players we’re coaching. Right now we’re really dealing with guys in the league are really the Millennials and Generation Z and that’s a, there’s a contrast is some of that, to be honest with you.
“If you understand the generation it doesn’t make anyone a good person or a bad person, but there are differences in terms of the time periods that these guys really develop and they really form their personalities, and you have to understand how to get to all your players.”
On what Judge hopes players take from him
Of course, every football coach wants his players and his team to improve so that games can be won. In terms of teaching, though, many of us have that special teacher we remember long after we have left school.
“I think that all comes down to just being open and honest with your teammates. Not everyone’s going to be friends, not everyone’s going to chum it up or hang out outside the building, but I do think any aspect of an organization everybody can have a good working relationship if you’re very open, very honest, very direct, if you’re accountable for your own work and actions and you put the team first,” Judge said.
“When you’re open and honest and you’re willing to have tough conversations that’s what naturally builds the leadership … we’ve gotta build it across all areas of our organization but that’s something to me that just helps the overall development of the person and to be honest with you is it just players? No. I’m trying to do the same thing with my sons, my daughters. Trying to get them to learn to look someone in the eye when they shake someone’s hand and give open, honest answers and be willing to own up when you screw something up. I just think that’s very important across the board. It shouldn’t be a skill, but it’s a skill today that goes underdeveloped. Whether it’s because of technology people don’t learn how to speak directly to people and form relationships.”
Learning ALL of the ropes
Judge, of course, hasn’t always been a head coach or a big-time NFL assistant. He was a graduate assistant, which is pretty much as low as you can go on the coaching ladder. He was a Division III assistant coach, where he said “you wear every hate possible.” Including cutting the grass and lining the field. As a kid, he swept floors in a restaurant.
“I think I’ve been fortunate to be able to do so many different roles as I’ve been able to work up,” Judge said. “Being a grad assistant where you do all the grunt work, where you’re the low man on the totem pole I guess it’s kinda like learning how to run a company by starting in the mailroom. You learn all the jobs on the way up.
“Look, I worked in an Italian restaurant my entire life growing up. I started out sweeping floors, folding pizza boxes and taking trash out and eventually I was working in the kitchen and I worked thru all the different stations and I went to the counter and I started making pizzas, kinda kept doing different things and you learned every aspect and then all of a sudden you realized how the whole restaurant functions.”
Through all of that he has gained both knowledge of and respect for the roles everyone plays.
“I understand fully when I talk to the field crew, yeah, I know exactly what to do to line a field, I’ve cut grass, I’ve done all that. I’m not saying I’m the expert they are, but I understand what they’re working with. I’ve been the video coordinator. I understand…