CHICAGO — The results on the field haven’t shaken New York Giants coach Joe Judge’s belief that the organization is headed in the right direction. Not one bit.
Judge delivered an impassioned 11-plus-minute answer after Sunday’s 29-3 loss to the Chicago Bears to a question about why fans should have faith the sputtering franchise will turn it around. In it were examples of the culture that has been built, a locker room that has been fumigated, and the work ethic and effort the current players have shown during the week and on game days. There also were claims of former players calling to tell Judge they missed the Giants and current players (upcoming free agents) making their pleas to return.
“This ain’t a team that is having fistfights on the sidelines. This ain’t some clown show organization or something else,” Judge said. “You talk about the foundation built. The toughest thing to change in a team, in a club, is the way people think. You understand that? That is the toughest thing. You can get new players. You can have your damn locker room all you want. You have to change how people think. You have to change how they f—ing believe in what you’re doing. And they have to trust the process. And that is a lot easier said than done when they’re looking up right now and you’ve got one game left and the most you can win is five this season.
“But I guarantee you this: Those men are going to walk in Wednesday and be ready to roll. We’re going to practice hard on Wednesday, practice hard on Thursday and Friday. And we’re going to play for each other when we get on the field next week.”
The Giants (4-12) have dropped five straight games. And if they put forth another poor performance next Sunday when they face the Washington Football Team, Judge knows what to expect.
“Every fan has a right to boo my ass out of the stadium,” he said. “Got that? That don’t bother me. I don’t want it. I don’t think anyone wants to get booed. But the reality of it, that’s all right. … The fans are every bit right to ask what you’re asking.”
The Giants might have played hard Sunday in Chicago. Their defense made plays until the final drive, which ended when linebacker Tae Crowder intercepted a pass near the end zone with under two minutes remaining.
But the offense was again anemic. Quarterback Mike Glennon went 4-of-11 passing for 24 yards with two interceptions and four fumbles, two of which were lost. The Giants had minus-10 net yards passing against the Bears. It was the lowest total by any team since the 1998 Chargers, when Ryan Leaf went 1-of-15 for 4 yards and lost 23 yards on sacks in a game.
“It was embarrassing,” Glennon said. “We work hard all week, all offseason, to have a better product.”
The product has not been good for the Giants for quite some time. They have lost at least 10 games in five straight seasons and 12 games in three of the past five.
But Judge, in his second year as coach, believes the Giants have a culture and system in place that will help the organization finally get it right. He mentioned taking over a program that his leaders told him was a mess after Pat Shurmur was fired.
Judge, 40, said he was told the previous group was not a team. The players didn’t play hard when they were out of the playoffs. It got so bad that some of the leaders stopped showing up to captains meetings. He even mentioned there was a player (it was widely known to be former wide receiver Golden Tate) who had golf clubs in front of his locker weeks before the season’s conclusion. Everybody quit.
“They tapped out,” Judge said he was told.
That is not the problem now, Judge insisted. He said he knows because he talked with two team leaders recently about what he needed to know about this team.
“Both guys had the same responses,” Judge said. “Everybody on the team is locked in. Everybody comes in to work. Everybody comes in every week and is committed to doing it and doing it the right way. And playing together as a team.”
The problem seems to be that it’s not manifesting itself on the field. The Giants, devastated by injury, have only gotten worse as this season has progressed. They went 6-10 last season and had a chance to win the division up until the final game.
Still, the team wants to bring Judge and quarterback Daniel Jones (out for the season with a neck injury) back next season, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter last week. Not that either seems to be non-negotiable for a new general manager, with the Giants seemingly destined to fire Dave Gettleman in the coming weeks.
Judge doesn’t seem overly concerned. He’s confident in what he’s building despite the lack of on-field results.
“I know we have the right temperament. I know we have the right culture in terms of teaching players, which is why I don’t come up here and try to assassinate some player because I think it’s going to save my ass,” Judge said. “Because behind closed doors, we shut those doors, I can tell every player to a man, look them in the eye, tell them exactly what they screwed up on and exactly how it’s got to get fixed. I can tell them to hold them as accountable as can be. Because I’m not going to sit up here, like some other cowards behind a microphone, and put the players on blast. That is it. I signed up to be the head coach here.”