EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' offseason program will officially begin Monday with a team meeting, position coaches conferring with their players and the coordinators introducing their systems to the offense, defense and special teams.
It will be much like any other spring beginning, except for two significant differences. First-year coach Joe Judge will address his entire roster for the first time. And all communication will be done remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic that is keeping the players and coaches confined to their homes throughout the country. The Quest Diagnostics Training Center, like all NFL headquarters, remains closed.
Judge is working in the basement of the Massachusetts home he shares with his wife, Amber, their four children – Michael (14), Sean (11), Emma Riley (9) and Ella Grace (6) – and the family's golden retriever, Abby. In addition to regular meetings with his coaches and planning for the offseason program, Judge has been immersed studying reports and interviewing players in in preparation for the three-day NFL Draft .
"I have (Abby) sitting on the couch next to me for about 15 hours a day," Judge said. "Right now, she can probably tell you more about who we're going to take in the first round than anybody else."
On a conference call today, Judge provided a glimpse into how it all works.
"We're using some virtual meeting software, like most everyone in America is - like my kids are in the kitchen right now taking virtual school," Judge said. "We're going to start out with position meetings. We're going to take our time of going through, making sure that first off all of the players are sound and set up on how to use the software. Before we get into too much of the football, we're going to make sure that everyone knows how to use it, and where to find all of the information. Monday is going to be a lot like a first day back in the building through a regular spring program. We want to spend some time with position coaches, we want to make sure the coordinators get a chance to address their room, and I'll have a chance to talk to the team for the first time. So, before we get into all of the X's and O's of football, there's an important element of just getting to know the players and them getting to know us that has to take place."
The offseason program was originally scheduled to begin on April 6, the starting date for all teams with a new head coach. The rest of the teams were set to start two weeks later, on Monday. Now the teams with new coaches will get a one-week head start on the rest of the league.
In the NFC East, that would seem to give an advantage to the Philadelphia Eagles. Head coach Doug Pederson is beginning his fifth season with the team and has used the same offense and defense since his arrival. Dallas, Washington and the Giants are all installing new schemes under first-year coaches.
Judge is typically resolute when discussing the experience factor.
"All we're concerned about at this point, really, is getting a foundation ready through whatever means it ends up being," Judge said. "We've been preparing for this now for some time, for these meetings to go virtual, we've got to communicate with our players through the conditioning program and have everything set up so that we can work with them. I think the advantage goes to whoever is best prepared from this point forward. I don't think any established program is at an advantage over anybody else. It's how you can find a way to communicate with your players and deliver a message. Whether you've been in the program for years or not, everyone has changes to their system, everybody has changes to what they're going to be doing in the offseason. They're going to have the same challenges of communicating to their players."
Judge would prefer to be in his office overlooking the Giants' practice fields, but he would be adhering to his schedule and doing the same tasks if he was stranded in an igloo or in a tree hut on a deserted island.
"The normal for me is my office just moved to my basement," Judge said. "I operate out of my basement. Same work hours I would hold if I were in the office, up early and stay late. Make sure you get everything done. We still meet on a regular basis as a staff, whether that's offense or defense or as an entire staff, strength staff, whatever it is. But we're meeting through online virtual meetings. We have technology that's allowing us to be very functional and productive. There have been some adjustments by everybody, but that's our job is to figure it out and move forward."
Judge believes the players are uniquely qualified to deal with the current unique circumstances. And if some are not…well, he's not hosting a pity party for anyone.
"One thing I'll tell you that I'm very confident in, is when we start dealing with the players there's no generation that's been more prepared for this offseason than the ones we're going to deal with now," Judge said. "They are very technologically savvy, they are going to have a lot of feedback that we're going to get from them that we're going to rely on in terms of how we can improve our meetings, to do what helps them. So, everybody has adjusted. I think if the worst thing we're dealing with right now, to be honest with you, is working out of our basement, we've got it pretty good.
"Look, there's a lot of people out there right now who don't have jobs to go to with this situation, there's police, fire department, there are nurses who leave their house every day, who leave their family behind and they are putting themselves out there to protect us. So, I think there's people we have to acknowledge with the right perspective who have it a lot tougher than a bunch of football coaches just trying to function to get ready for an offseason and a draft."
Judge holds a position high in the Giants' hierarchy, but in one respect he is no different than anyone else in the organization, the league or millions of NFL fans. He has no idea when he will be permitted to bring his team together, hold his first practice or when the season will begin. But he does know he must be prepared for those occurrences and any other situation that arises.
"It's my job to be prepared," Judge said. "As the head coach, I need to have a plan for everything that's going to come up. When we got the memo from the NFL the other day of how the spring is going to look, I sat down and we've made four calendars already in anticipation of different scenarios that could come up. We have them color coded, so if we get the players as scheduled, we're working off the blue calendar. If we don't get the players, we're working off the red calendar. If we get them later in the spring, we'll pull up the purple calendar. We have different scenarios mapped out, so we have a plan of attack when that time comes. It's our job to figure it out and have a plan for the players, and we're working on doing that right now."
View photos of the Giants' 90-man roster as it currently stands.