INDIANAPOLIS – While they evaluate the top prospects coming out of college, Giants coaches are living the dorm life.
Through a very deliberate and thought-out process, first-year head coach Joe Judge assembled a diversified coaching staff from all parts of the country. It's easy to forget that these are real people with real families, and it takes time to re-locate. Until they get settled in the area, the transplants, including Judge, moved into the same apartment complex down the street from MetLife Stadium. So what happens when nearly two dozen ball coaches live together away from their wives and children?
"[It's] basically like a college dorm – not that we're having toga parties but just in terms of we're together all the time," Judge said as he made the rounds during media day at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We're commuting back and forth, we're constantly talking ball, we're in early, we're working late, so this is a great time for us to build that camaraderie and relationships that will carry us forward throughout the season. One thing you've got to remember is the football season is a long season, and once you come together, it's like a submarine. When those doors close and you go underwater, it's just you and the team looking at each other on a daily basis."
And Judge's friends are all aboard.
From Mississippi State to Alabama and New England, Judge had previous relationships or connections with the 20 members of his staff. That was a point of emphasis, not convenience.
"You have to establish throughout the spring and training camp who you are and the relationships you have that will carry you through the tough times," Judge said, "because there's going to be a point where the outside is not so rosy and right now it's all big expectations and a lot of positive light. There's going to be a point where on the outside, it's very dark and gloomy. You have to make sure you have the trust in each other inside that you can get through those times."
In between the start of free agency on March 18 and the first night of the draft on April 23, clubs with new head coaches, like the Giants, may begin their offseason workout program on April 6. That's when Judge and the staff will get the players in for the first time. With the clock ticking, coaches are installing schemes in hotel ballrooms when they get a free minute this week from watching or interviewing prospects.
"It's very important we don't lose this time as a staff to get on the same page so when the players show up on April 6th that we have answers and we can start moving in the direction," Judge said. "It's also important with the draft process that we come out of here with a better understanding of the players we're looking to add to our roster. There are going to be other opportunities after this through pro days, private workouts, 30 visits, that we can dive deeper into certain players. But this may be the most exposure we get with certain players going into the process. It's important that whatever questions we need answered, we clear them up as best as possible."
Speaking of clarity, Judge addressed reports linking Bret Bielema, his new outside linebackers coach and senior defensive assistant, to head coach positions in the college ranks. Bielema coached in college for 24 years, starting in 1994 at his alma mater, Iowa, before moving to Kansas State and Wisconsin, where he was Big Ten Coach of the Year as a first-time head coach in 2006, and then to Arkansas in 2013.
"I'll go ahead and be very clear about this as well, in terms of how I'll answer questions relative to the jobs," Judge said. "I'm not going to speak on hypotheticals on any job. Just understand that when you hire good people, there's going to be interest. That's a positive. When people are desired on your staff, that means business is good. But if I comment on one person's hypothetical, that opens the door to every hypothetical ever, no matter what level of truth may or may not carry with it. I understand the interest, I fully respect the questions. Please understand going forward, I'm not being close-minded about it. But I just can't entertain every hypothetical."
But, Coach, 'tis the season of hypotheticals.
"The only priority is to bring in good football players who meet the values and principles of the organization," Judge said. "We're not trying to re-create anywhere we've been before. We have a lot of coaches with a lot of experience from different programs. We're interested in building the 2020 New York Giants, not re-creating any other program we've been part of."
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