EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge doesn't often dabble in hypotheticals and speculation, but he couldn't elude them late Sunday, thanks to a decision he made in the fourth quarter of the Giants' 21-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in MetLife Stadium.
With the offense sputtering, turning over the ball, and getting nowhere near the end zone, Judge called on quarterback Jake Fromm to make his NFL debut in place of Mike Glennon. And while Fromm's efforts late in the fourth quarter didn't result in points, the offense under his command gained 84 yards or 26 more than it had in any of its first nine possessions.
Inquiring minds asked Judge on his postgame news conference – conducted on Zoom – if Fromm might start next week in Philadelphia against the Eagles if Daniel Jones misses a fourth consecutive game with a neck injury.
"We got to a point in the game where I wanted to see what Jake could do, point blank," Judge said. "We weren't doing enough moving the ball otherwise, so I wanted to make sure I had the chance to see Jake and that will obviously open up a conversation about what we're going to do this week. We'll talk about it as a staff and we'll make the best decision for the team."
Fromm was signed off the Buffalo Bills' practice squad on Dec. 1, three days after Jones was injured in a victory against the Eagles. He doesn't know the entire offense but looked comfortable in completing six of 12 passes for 82 yards, including a 36-yarder to Kenny Golladay that was 20 yards longer than any other pass the Giants completed. All three of Golladay's receptions were on passes thrown by Fromm.
"Obviously, it was really fun to get out there," Fromm said. "It kind of checked the list, checked the box there a little bit. I got to complete a childhood dream and got to play in an NFL game. It was awesome, just the ability to go out there with the guys. There are some new guys, I'm new. It was just fun to be able to get out, move the ball a little bit, try to compete, and give us a chance to win there at the end.
"I was just trying to stay prepared throughout the whole game. I didn't know if I was going in at any particular time. I was just trying to stay ready. They told me there late in the fourth quarter, 'Hey, you're up.' I was just trying to get ready and try to make something happen."
The Giants needed an offensive jolt. Their entire scoring output was Graham Gano field goals of 35 and 42 yards. Before their final four plays, the Giants' offense snapped the ball exactly once in the red zone. They turned over the ball four times, three on interceptions thrown by Glennon, including one in the end zone. Glennon completed 13 of 24 passes for 99 yards. In addition, he was unable to advance the ball on a fourth-down quarterback sneak from the Giants' 29-yard line in the third quarter.
"We saw an opening and honestly right when I got the ball, I thought we were going to get it and it felt like we got a little push," Glennon said of the sneak attempt. "And then I looked over and I could tell we were short."
Glennon said he's "not really sure" why the offense struggled. "I have to take a look at the film," he said. "Thought we ran the ball pretty well. Self-inflicted wounds, there were a couple of times we did move the ball well and then just ended up with field goals and then a couple of kind of dumb decisions on my end forcing the ball that were not good decisions."
Saquon Barkley committed the fourth turnover, losing a fumble with 41 seconds remaining in the second quarter, a giveaway that helped Dallas kick a second field goal in the final 1:39 before the half.
"The turnovers, obviously we made mistakes in how we were going and pushing the ball down the field a little bit," Judge said. "In terms of the execution, we've got to make some plays and use good judgement and make good decisions. We've got to make sure we have better ball security at the end of the first half and not turn the ball over right there, put the defense in a position where they have to go back on the field and play defense."
"From what I remember, I was cutting up and the guy (Demarcus Lawrence) punched it out," Barkley said. "I've got to go back and watch my ball security. Hats off to whoever made the play, but I've got to be better. That goes to practice, working on my ball security in practice, doing extra stuff with ball security, to going back to the little things."
The Giants had what Judge said, "was a different type of week for us in preparation." They had nine players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, eight with positive tests. Safety Xavier McKinney, a close contact, was the only one of the nine to play in the game. That large-scale return of COVID led to virtual meetings, canceled practices and general schedule uncertainty.
"Thought the effort of the team was what we needed, but obviously the execution was not," Judge said. "Too many self-inflicted wounds today. Thought we had a chance for success. We had our shots, but we've got to make the most of them. You're not going to win a lot of games in this league with four turnovers."
The giveaways gave Dallas help the Giants couldn't afford to provide.
On the Giants' first possession, Glennon was intercepted by Jourdan Lewis. Two plays later, Ezekiel Elliott scored on a 13-yard run up the middle. Barkley's fumble gifted the Cowboys three points by Greg Zuerlein, who kicked field goals of 26, 42 and 27 yards.
Less than 2½ minutes after Glennon came up short on the quarterback sneak, Dak Prescott had plenty of time to throw a one-yard touchdown passes to tight end Dalton Schultz that made it 21-6.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Glennon threw behind Sterling Shepard and the ball was picked off by Malik Hooker. The Giants got another chance to close the 15-point gap when Austin Johnson recovered Prescott's fumble following Lorenzo Carter's strip-sack. Two plays later, Glennon threw into the end zone for Golladay. But Trevon Diggs came up with his NFL-leading 10th interception, which was originally ruled an incompletion but reversed on review.
When the Giants offense next took the field, Fromm was the quarterback. Judge was asked why he didn't make the move sooner, considering the offense needed a spark.
"I thought we had some opportunities with Mike in there moving the ball," Judge said. "There were some shots we had. We thought it was time to go ahead and give Jake an opportunity to get in there and play. He got in there and moved the ball well, did some good things. Like I said, that will obviously open up the conversation in terms of what we're going to do next week against Philly."
"We had discussions about it on the headset as a staff. I thought we would give Mike one more drive and see what he can do right there. After that, I said let's go ahead and get Jake in there."
This week, we'll find out if he still has that same desire.