INDIANAPOLIS – In 2018, Joe Judge did not attend the NFL Scouting Combine because the team he then worked for, the New England Patriots, chose not to send any of their assistant coaches. Last year, he represented the Patriots as their special teams and wide receivers coach, positions that required him to evaluate players at numerous positions.
Last week, Judge experienced his first Combine as the head coach of the Giants and took a somewhat wider view.
"I would say, obviously, there are some differences in terms of being the head coach," Judge said. "In terms of my overall process being here historically with the roles I've been in, I've always evaluated the entire roster. So, all positions were critical in my evaluation. I'm definitely more involved now with the offensive and defensive lines than I was in the past, which is obviously two critical positions. But in terms of evaluating every player out there for their total athleticism and skillset, that hasn't changed."
Judge and his assistant coaches, general manager Dave Gettleman and his staff and director of college scouting Chris Pettit and the scouts have developed a productive working relationship in their two months together.
"Joe's been great – all the guys have been great," Pettit said. "Willing to help, wanting to be part of the process, we want them as part of the process. Joe and the staff have done a great job lining us up with what they look for in players, what they look for on defense, what they look for on offense, the type of people they like. We've had a great dialogue going, and Joe and all the coaches have been watching tape (of draft-eligible players). If they have questions, they ask. It's going to be fun as we continue that process with them. They've been really good and telling us, defining this is what their vision is. It's our job to go get those players."
Judge volleyed the praise right back.
"Our scouts have done a tremendous job of narrowing down the guys out there," he said. "There are a lot of players in the country, so they have to go out there throughout the course of over a year's time and really narrow down this field. Now, when they get to the combine, reducing that even further that it's not just about guys with physical traits, but it's about the guys with the right character traits for the program."
Judge said he saw numerous players at the Combine with the skillset, intelligence and determination he and the organization are seeking.
"Everybody who's here has a level of talent and accomplishment," Judge said. "We're looking for guys who fit our program, and that's schematically, that's within the values and principles, guys who have the right character, that have the right traits to fit in our locker room with our players. The second they walk into that room, we're evaluating them all the way on through, both what they'll bring on the field and off the field."
Check out the best photos from behind the scenes at the NFL Combine.
*One term frequently mentioned at the Combine is football intelligence. But how important is it?
"It's everything," Pettit said. "The longer we've been in this, the guys that make it are smart. They're able to problem solve, they're able to adapt on the field, off the field. They're smart players. They have football intelligence. This is a way to confirm that. The Combine is about confirming your thoughts from the fall. You can watch a tape and see if a guy plays with football intelligence. Or if a guy is making a lot of mistakes on film, you wonder. You learn that sitting there in that room talking to him, talking ball."
*The Los Angeles Rams and the Denver Broncos did not send their assistant coaches to the Combine, feeling those staffs' time would be better served at their home facilities.
The Giants coaching staff, of course, is installing new systems across the board. The coaches could have stayed in New Jersey to continue building their playbooks. But Judge wanted them and the rest of his coaches in Indianapolis.
"I think the most important thing is we get an opportunity to sit down with the players, meet them face to face, look them in the eye, ask them direct questions about things we have to find out about," Judge said. "It's really our first exposure with these players as coaches, so it's a good first impression we're looking for. In this process, there's a lot of guys. Some people, it's adding them higher on your board. Some, it's eliminating people from the process. You'd rather add more than eliminate at this point, because you want to have more available prospects.
"We brought all of our work with us. We set up meeting rooms both in the hotel and at the stadium in the suites that the offense, defense and special teams, we're all working together right now, installing our schemes, getting everybody on the same page. That's critical for us as a new staff because we don't get this time back. This is not a coaching staff that's been working with each other as a unit for an established point of time yet. We have guys who have prior experience with each other in different organizations, but this is the New York Giants. We have to make sure we're all on the same page for us."
*Judge on what he will do between the Combine and he draft:
"I plan on being on the road and working guys out, whether that's pro days or private workouts," Judge said. "We haven't put those in concrete as to which ones specifically yet, but we're working on that process. It's very important for me to be out there and to work with these guys as much as I possibly can."