As a former assistant at Alabama and then in the NFL with New England, Joe Judge was frequently part of teams that started 3-0. Now that he is 0-3 as a head coach, he still feels the same the day after games.
"I'll tell you right now, I've been on a lot of teams that have started off 5-0, 6-0, 7-0, 10-0 and I'm telling you right now, it's the same feeling in every building across the league right now," Judge said. "All they're thinking about is things you have to improve on, things you have to work on. It's not sunshine and rainbows. To me, Mondays are always a day where it's a tough day on everybody because all you can think of as a coach are what you have to get better at.
"It doesn't matter what the result of the game is and how well or disappointing something may have been. You're just focused on what you have to correct and fix and get it going fast. To be honest with you in terms of how all that goes, does anything make it easier? In the NFL, not a lot of things get easier as the year goes. We have to improve to make sure that as the year goes, we can be competitive and put our team on the field with a chance to be successful."
Win, lose or tie, Judge's focus centers on areas of improvement. And there were plenty of them to go around after a 36-9 loss at home to the shorthanded 49ers.
The Giants were outscored 20-3 in the second half, turned the ball over three times, forced zero takeaways, and possessed the ball nearly half the time that San Francisco did.
"We have to work to be a balanced team," Judge said. "That's balanced whether it's running and passing, balanced offense and defense, balanced with the kicking game, playing complementary football. There are a lot of things right now that we have to make sure the yin and the yang factor out for each other. But we have to do a better job overall as a team, and we have to do a good job complementing each other on offense to help out the passing game and the running game."
After all, there is still a lot of football to be played. The Giants, who now hit the road for back-to-back weeks against the Rams and Cowboys, are fortunate to be just one game off the NFC East lead. Washington and Dallas are 1-2, while Philadelphia is 0-2-1 after tying Cincinnati on Sunday.
"Look, I'll tell you right now, those years we started off with a lot of wins, we didn't always finish those years as successful as the years we started off pretty rough," Judge said. "Sometimes early on, you really get a vision of what you are and your identity by how you have to correct your mistakes and what you have to learn from. We had a lot of years we were the most successful team in the world where it started off really, really rough. There are a lot of times you look around the meeting rooms and the locker room halfway through the year regardless of your record, and it's just doom and gloom. You have to make sure you kind of bring it back to perspective and understand it's a day by day process as a team, and you're all you got.
"You need to stand together as a team and you have to go ahead and make sure you guys move forward on a weekly basis to make improvements. It's the NFL. It's the most competitive league in all of sports in the world. It's at the highest absolute level. It's not supposed to be easy. What we're trying to do here isn't easy either. But we're going to try to keep it simple for our players that we can improve on a weekly basis and keep moving forward."
*Safety Jabrill Peppers suffered an ankle injury just 5:17 into Sunday's game and did not return. He was replaced by Logan Ryan, who had seven tackles (four solo) and two passes defensed. Judge did not have a timetable on Peppers' return as of Monday afternoon but did say he is "day to day."
Meanwhile, left tackle Andrew Thomas, the team's first-round draft choice, also left late in the 49ers game and was replaced by another rookie, Matt Peart, who saw his first NFL action. Judge wasn't concerned it was anything serious for the fourth overall pick.
"I'd say with Andrew, you guys asked about him yesterday, he did finish the game," Judge said. "There was nothing significant to really go over today with the trainers. Jabrill, I don't have a timetable on him for anything. We're going to evaluate him day to day. We'll see where he is. He had that lower leg. They're going through a couple more things with the doctor this afternoon, but it looks like it could go either way at this point right here."
*Linebacker David Mayo was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 6 after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee. He became eligible to return after three games. If the Giants choose to bring him back to practice, they would open a 21-day window to activate him to the 53-man roster. Judge said they could have a decision as early as tomorrow.
Mayo is in his second season with the Giants. He joined them six days prior to 2019 season and played in all 16 games, including starts in each of the last 13 contests. He tied for second on the team with a career-best 80 tackles (50 solo), including his first two career sacks.
"We'll kind of look and see where that goes," Judge said. "He's with the trainers. I know he's been working hard. I see him around the building. I don't get a lot of time with him on the grass, but they say he's working his butt off every day and improving on a daily basis. We have to look and see where he's at. For us, it's in his best interest to make sure that when we start that 21-day clock, that he's in a position that he's not going to have any setbacks that would take him past that 21-day clock. I want to make sure we do the right thing by him by not rushing him back before he's fully ready, and that would keep him possibly off the field for the entire year. I want to make sure we go ahead and do right by him."