It does not take long after meeting Joe Judge to get the sense he knows what he wants, does not mince words about what he wants and prefers to take the direct route to get what he wants.
In his first NFL draft with the Giants — his first anywhere as a head coach — Judge operated the way those who hired him expected him to handle the assignment: organized, prepared, perhaps a tad headstrong but willing to listen and incorporate the ideas and thoughts of those around him.
What came through loud and clear: Judge, with his background steeped in special teams, was already accustomed to evaluating players in their totality, not specifically where they fit on offense or defense. For the past eight years, Judge scoured the draft for the myriad skills needed to cover and block for kicks and punts. Thus, he was better prepared than a 38-year-old novice head coach normally would be, as far as seeing how these draft prospects make sense on the roster.
Much has been speculated as to how a young gun with a brand-new five-year contract would sync with an older (69) general manager put on notice by ownership to get better players and improve the product on the field. Judge and Dave Gettleman are not on the same timeline in their careers, but they need each other and so far, so good.
“This entire process has been tremendous,’’ Judge said recently. “There’s definitely a full teamwork environment in our building. Dave has been awesome, his staff has been great. The coaches have had a lot of involvement, there’s been constant communication going back and forth.’’
The only NFL team Judge knew before coming to the Giants was the Patriots, as a special teams assistant and coordinator. Bill Belichick took such a liking to Judge that the two spent extra time together the past few seasons, Belichick cluing his eager staff member in on the intricacies of roster building, draft strategies, salary-cap ramifications and the daily chores of a head coach.
Belichick has final say on everything in New England, befitting someone with a record six Super Bowl championships as a head coach. Judge, of course, does not command that sort of gravitas.
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“The important thing in these processes is knowing what you see and sticking to your guns,’’ Judge said. “You’ve got to remember, these scouts do a very, very difficult job. They spend a whole lot of nights away from their families on the road in hotels. To go through that excruciating process of evaluating someone, lining them up on your board, hoping to have a chance to get somebody, just to watch another team take them away from you. Or maybe you have someone whose opinion is a little bit different or varied, or you’ve got someone like me maybe hammering back at you saying he may not be a fit for us. That’s a tough thing.’’
Judge described “natural disagreements’’ that arose. Gettleman believes in collaboration. This does not mean he and the head coach always see eye-to-eye.
“Working with Joe is different than working with Ron Rivera [with the Panthers] than working with Pat Shurmur,’’ Gettleman said. “Anybody you work with that’s not the same person is going to be different. It was great working with Joe and at the end of the day, it’s not a Dave Gettleman decision, they are not Joe Judge decisions, they are New York Football Giants decisions. It was terrific working with Joe, it was thorough, it was well done and we felt very prepared and felt we had a really good, solid draft.’’
Judge has four former head coaches (one NFL, three college) on his staff and said he made sure to ask advice “how to handle different situations with things that came up that I didn’t expect.’’
Those involved in the Giants’ draft process the past two years, noticed a difference in demeanor and personality from Judge to Shurmur. Judge is a strong communicator, as far as articulating his opinions and perspectives.
As for working an exhausting draft lead-up, remotely, for the first time, Judge said the pipeline was always open.
“Me and Dave had great conversations at length, whether it was late at night or early in the morning,’’ Judge said.
Those conversations helped Judge impress those around him in his first draft as one of the guys in charge.
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