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Coach Joe Judge taking notes on playoff teams

JOE-JUDGE

Joe Judge doesn't golf. He hasn't been hunting in a while. His off-season hobby is spending more time around the house with his family.

Thus, he found himself watching Super Wild Card Weekend on the couch with his sons.

"It's great watching playoff football," Judge said Tuesday on “Boomer & Gio” on WFAN. "But it's also very frustrating at the same time."

Judge missed out on coaching for at least one more week after the Giants' playoff hopes were extinguished in the 256th and final game of the 2020 NFL regular season. He concluded his first season as head coach of the New York Giants with a win, but the 6-10 record left the team's fate in the hands of a divisional rival, which he knows is never a good formula.

While the off-season is a time to recharge, he can't fully take off the coaching cap. He spent much of the time texting with members of the staff about what they were seeing in the playoff games. He also told his players to do as much before they went their separate ways last week.

"Before I left, I said when you watch these games, sit back, relax and allow yourself to watch and enjoy the games, but also watch the game from a lens that you've you learned to really see it," Judge said. "Look at the situation. Look at the things that really impact the game – turnovers, penalties, the mental errors. Take a look at maybe something someone could have done differently and how we would have handled it and really try to look through that lens. That's kind of the way I watch it. I'm kind of sitting there and I'm watching, I'll make a mental note or sometimes jot something down in a notebook. There's a lot of texting going back and forth between me and other members of our staff."

One of those members was surely assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who recently signed a contract extension and will not consider head coaching opportunities for 2021.

"Keeping Pat here was definitely a priority for us," Judge told the co-hosts. "We know Pat is going to have a lot of opportunities going forward. He's a very, very smart coach. He's a very good communicator. He has a lot of really good ideas. He's very good at getting the players to buy in and understand the concepts he's trying to do. I'll tell you what, that to me was huge. That was huge. Pat's a great coach. He's a good friend. Being able to keep him in this organization for as long as we can, that was definitely a priority.

"He's a tremendous help to me. He carries that title of assistant head coach, and that's not just fluff on a sheet. He does a lot of things helping me internally. To be honest with you, right now, we're in the building together. He's the only other coach in here right now. We've already started kind of floating through some sheets of free agents and certainly poking through some of the draft stuff right now. He's great to always bounce ideas off each other. I'm definitely happy he's coming back next year."

Locking up Graham will help Judge and the Giants build on the foundation they laid in Year 1. Ultimately, that was Judge's "one true goal" in 2020.

"I found that was definitely a success for our team moving forward, and I found that out really when we were 1-7 at that midway point," Judge said. "Obviously there's a lot of difficulty, there's a lot of noise on the outside, but inside I could see guys coming to work every day, doing it the right way, trusting the process, and improving."

Judge added, "It was obviously a very challenging year for everyone in the league in a lot of ways. There's a lot of things to overcome before you even got to the Xs and Os. I'm proud of the organization and the way everyone was able to work together with one vision. I was proud of the way our players handled a lot of adversity through the offseason, how to prepare. … I think there are some things that obviously you don't make public and you don't talk about or make a deal about because everyone is dealing with things, but there were a lot of things within the league that every player on every team this year had to deal with, which was far from normal in the scope of any normal football season."

Other highlights from Judge's interview on "Boomer & Gio" on WFAN:

*Judge reflected on the one-year anniversary of his hiring and assembling a coaching staff.

"A lot of times guys go into interviews and say, OK, Mike Ditka is going to run this side of the ball and Bill Walsh is going to run the other side of the ball. It's like, well, those guys might not be available," Judge said. "In the NFL, in terms of with the rules, you have to get permission to let guys out of their contracts and get going. So unless somebody isn't necessarily free and their contract is running up where you know they can get out, a lot of times there's just kind of promising names you can't always deliver on. So it's something you have to be careful with right there. To me what was important last year with [ownership] was I wanted to explain more so instead of who I was going to hire, the type of people I was looking for – what I wanted the offense to look like, the defense, the kicking game, the kind of people I value in an organization because when you do it right and have success there's going to be guys on your staff who are going to have opportunities move on elsewhere as potentially head coaches or assistants that may become coordinators."

*Judge talked about people "busting his chops" for not mentioning specific players by name early in his first off-season. His reasoning was to be fair to the players. He didn't want to set expectations that the player had to live up to before learning the systems and growing in them. Quarterback Daniel Jones was one of those names he did not mention, at first.

"Specifically with Daniel, and I shared this with him earlier in the year, I told him, I said, 'Look, part of the thing we have to evaluate this year is I have to evaluate you.' [I had to] see if he was really the answer and see if he was the guy we could build with."

Judge now has no question - Jones is that player.

"There hit a point in the year where you could see there were different traits that he had that the team really responded to and his level of play was raised. Look, there were a lot of things you could argue in terms of statistical output, this and that, but I'm telling you, when you watch the guy and how he handles the huddle, when you watch how he has command of the offense, when you watch how he adjusts with game plans, when you see the level of toughness he plays with, when you watch him prepare away from the field better than anybody else on a daily basis – and that's saying a lot because our guys empty the tank every day – there's a lot of things you look at him and say, hey, this guy gives us confidence going forward with him because we know he's going to be prepared. We know he's going to compete, and we've seen improvement from him."

Judge also talked about the severity of the hamstring injury that Jones played through for the latter part of the season.

"It wasn't easy for him," Judge said. "He's a tough dude. Sometimes, there are a lot of injuries that are worse than kind of are initially led onto, and his was definitely a significant injury that he battled through for the rest of the year. There were some things we had to adjust to within the game; obviously it was a different style of play than what we had been doing previous weeks with Daniel."

*Sticking on the subject of quarterbacks, Judge talked about the value of backup Colt McCoy, who led the Giants to one of their biggest wins in recent memory at Seattle.

"When his number got called, I think the team rallied around Colt so much because they saw how hard he worked in practice on a daily basis and how much of a team guy he really was. I think one of the funny things is the defense had such a close connection to Colt because he played so much against our defense in practice and was great in terms of giving us feedback as coaches. We would do certain things for whether it was for third down or red zone game plan, we'd sit down after practice with Colt. Between him, myself, and Pat Graham, he would kind of give us some insight – 'Hey, I see what you're doing here, I can tell what the coverage is going to be based on this guy's alignment, or this disguise is tough for me to pick up on.' So he gave us a lot of feedback, and those defensive guys really got challenged by him on a daily basis. Colt wasn't going out there just to read the card [on the scout team]; he was going out there to make a play and try to win the drill."

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