EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Three days after declaring the Giants' situation is "definitely going to get better," coach Joe Judge today placed the onus on himself to make it happen.
"I'm the head coach, it's my responsibility, point blank," Judge said in a pre-practice talk with reporters. "Every player on this field and every position group all comes down to me. The fish stinks from the head down. I have been taught that by great guys that I've worked for and played for. There are no excuses. There are no exceptions. You demand of your coaches to make sure players are playing the right way. You demand of your players to know what to do, and they go out there and do it. But it starts with me and ends with me."
The Giants are 1-5 as they prepare to host the 3-3 Carolina Panthers on Sunday in MetLife Stadium. Since winning in overtime in New Orleans on Oct. 3, the Giants have lost in Dallas, 44-20, and at home to the Los Angeles Rams, 38-11. The 27-point margin of defeat was tied for the team's largest in Judge's 22-game tenure. The Cowboys' and Rams' point totals were the two largest allowed by the Giants since Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham took over.
On Monday, a day after the loss to the Rams, Judge was told Giants fans are "ticked off" and was asked, "can you assure them it's going to get better anytime soon?"
"This is definitely going to get better, so there you go," Judge said. "I don't know what kind of guarantee they want, but I can assure everyone out there that's a Giants fan and they want to know when it's going to turn. I can tell them right now we're working tirelessly to make sure we get this thing turned around in the right direction, not just for short-term results, but for long-term success."
View photos from Thursday's practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 7 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
When a reporter said today, "it's a lot of stuff to put on one person," Judge said, "it's all perception."
But every NFL head coach faces numerous internal and external pressures. How does Judge, whose two-year record is 7-15, deal with his?
"I just keep focused on the job and the task at hand. That, to me, is the biggest thing," Judge said. "Look, at anything you're doing, if you come and you try to look at everything all at once and take on everything at once, you're going to feel suffocated. If you come and you have a progression and a process of how you're going to go ahead and attack things, you prioritize, and you make sure you go through a systematic approach to it, then you have a process in place that you can go through and make sure you hit everything, and you're prepared and ready to go. To me, the only time you really feel any kind of pressure or nerves is when you're unprepared. If you're prepared, you go through the tasks and the process at hand, and you're consistent with it. Then, you go with confidence."
"That's what we preach to our guys. We come out here to practice a certain way every week. We prepare a certain way every week. We've got to go out there and execute better to have the results we want. I was talking about keeping the target small. Think about what you're really aiming for right there. Right now, a lot of people want to talk about weeks before this and weeks after this. This is the only game we can do anything about right now. Today is the only day we can do anything about right now. The meetings that we are in at that time and the plays we are running at that time are the only things we have an impact on at that moment. So, we've got to focus on each play individually to win that play at that moment. Then, the next situation and the next play that comes with what it is. We have to execute that play. Those plays become series, series become games, and games become seasons. So, we've got to go ahead and put one thing at a time to make sure we get that right."
Safety and defensive captain Logan Ryan is a strong supporter of Judge's stemming from their time together on the New England Patriots from 2013-17.
"I think you've got to respect people who take ownership," Ryan said. "I think finger-pointing and blaming is the easy thing to do and I think you've got to respect a coach who says it starts with him to get the team prepared. I agree, it does start with him, but it starts with me individually to be myself and to lead my unit, as well. I think all of us are up here taking ownership, but we can only answer the questions how we can. When there's negative stuff going on, there's only so many answers there are. At the end of the day, we need more positive results and I think that starts with people taking ownership, so I think that's been a good sign."
The Giants' coordinators today fielded questions about Judge in their weekly meeting with reporters.
Graham worked with Judge on the Patriots' staff from 2012-15. He was asked how Judge is dealing with the "losing and adversity."
"I think the beauty of Joe is this, it's how we learn – consistency," Graham said. "The emotional consistency, the stamina, the emotional stamina to be the same every day. I think Joe – that's why he's a good leader. Whether we win, lose, whatever, Joe's going to correct us and there's a standard he has. If we won by three touchdowns or lost by three touchdowns, Joe is consistent in terms of how he's handling, trying to improve the football team as we move through the season. The goals still remain the same to be playing your best football, again, once you get to Thanksgiving, and obviously, we've got to start winning some games, but Joe is as consistent as I've ever seen him. Never too up, never too down. You'd have to ask him exactly how he's dealing with it. But to me, I've got so much respect for Joe in terms of the ability to be consistent over time whether win, lose or draw. I think that's the big thing that he's displayed so far."
"Joe's our leader," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. "We all look to our leader for strength. He's done a hell of a job I think of keeping the team moving forward. The one thing that as special teams coaches you understand is that the only constant that we have in this league is change, and it's always changing. You've got to be able to adjust to the change. Positive, negative, you've got to be able to adjust to it. Joe is a tough guy, Joe's mentally tough and he's doing a great job with our team as far as the leadership part of it and keeping us pressing and moving forward, staying focused on the task at hand and that's to win today. You don't have a chance on Sunday if you don't win today. We're focusing on right now, being where our feet are and just keep it moving."
"Each day of preparation leads to an opportunity to play your best on Sunday," said offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. "If you can get everybody focused on this, what we need to do right now, I think that's what gives you the best chance…Every coach, every player and Joe, our leader, has done a really good job of that."
The Giants continue to try to do that despite injuries to several key players, a reality that Judge never uses as an excuse.
But the injury news keeps coming. Today, tight end Evan Engram (calf) joined running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receivers Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle) on the did-not-practice list. Engram missed the season's first two games with a calf injury he suffered in the preseason finale.
"They all made progress yesterday," Judge said of Barkley, Golladay and Toney. "We'll kind of see where they're going. They won't really do much with us at all today. We'll see if there's any hope for them going tomorrow. I'd say they're making progress. They're doing a good job. It's kind of going in the right direction. We'll see how far away they are as we get through today."
The Giants have other injury concerns. Left tackle Andrew Thomas will miss at least three games after being placed on injured reserve this week with foot and ankle injuries. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who wasn't on the injury report yesterday, was limited today with a hamstring injury – the same malady that forced him to miss the games in New Orleans and Dallas. Cornerback Sam Beal was also added to the report with a hamstring injury.
Wide receiver John Ross (hamstring) and tight end Kaden Smith (knee), who did not practice yesterday, were limited today, as were wideout Darius Slayton (hamstring), offensive lineman Ben Bredeson (hand) and defensive lineman Danny Shelton (pec). Linebacker Azeez Ojulari, who missed practice yesterday for personal reasons, worked fully today.