Head Coach Joe Judge
December 17, 2020
Q: With Jason (Garrett), can you tell us how this came about this morning? Was he experiencing symptoms? How did this all come about?
A: I’m not going to go into anyone’s personal health. What I would say is this, we found out last night through the test results that we had a positive. Immediately, we made sure all of the coaches that were in the building became isolated in their offices. We did an immediate tracker on the tracings through the devices. We found out who was at risk, who wasn’t. We were very fortunate to find out we had no high-risks, and we had almost minimal contacts as well. It was definitely a fortunate situation in terms of where we’re standing right now. We took precaution today and we changed the schedule. We did an early morning meeting through Zoom. Really, we’ve been doing that on Thursdays anyways, so the morning for us was really the same. Instead of practicing this afternoon, what we’ll do is we’ll bring the players back into a Zoom meeting from 3 to 5:30, and we’ll go ahead and get a jumpstart on tomorrow’s install, along with some extra tape on the Browns. We’re going to use this as a good mental day and prepare, make sure we get some good organizational work between units with communication. We’ll take advantage of everything afforded to us, and we’ll get back on the field tomorrow.
Q: I think it’s a wake-up call for some of us who maybe cover you guys and haven’t seen it with you guys. How is it that you guys don’t have, Jason wasn’t around anybody for whatever it is, 15 minutes or five minutes, consecutively? How is it that you guys are able to do that?
A: Listen, we stress spacing continuously throughout the day. The way our meeting rooms are set up, we’ve converted our indoor facility into the meeting rooms, so it’s given us a lot of space to spread out. Even when you’re in meetings, you’re spread out continuously. We do a good job anytime we have any kind of a walkthrough on our feet, we’re masked and with those clear shields over top for extra protection. We make sure that we just keep our distance throughout the day. We segment time when players are available to use the locker room. We make sure we structure meetings that there’s an even flow of guys that go into the cafeteria to grab food. We keep small groups in the weight room. We make sure we monitor who’s in the training room at all times. We just make sure we don’t overpopulate areas. The one thing we’ve been told continuously throughout this whole process from the league is it’s all about spacing and avoiding crowds, and we’ve made an emphasis this entire year on doing that. Whether it’s in the meetings, we make sure that everything is set up accordingly. Throughout practice, we’re constantly moving around and keeping guys spread out. The players that are not involved with that play at that time that may be out, we make sure the position groups are spread out and watching. We just try to keep everybody moving as much as continuously possible to avoid these longstanding contacts.
Q: With Freddie Kitchens, I’m wondering do you anticipate, obviously it’s a short amount of time anyway, but do you anticipate the offense looking any different with him calling plays? You obviously have a long history with Freddie. I’m just curious what made you want to bring him on to the staff when you were putting it together?
A: I’ve worked with Freddie, I’ve worked against Freddie. He’s a tremendous coach. Freddie has a great rapport with the players in the building. He really connects with people. I think Freddie is a very intelligent and very smart football coach. He does a great job of really identifying scheme. He’s a tough, fundamental coach as well. I think you see from his players, they improve and they really respond to him on a personal level, which carries over to their performance on the field. In terms of Freddie calling plays this week, look, it’s really been a cooperative effort throughout the season anyway with the offensive staff, along with the defensive staff. We all work together on the same page. We built in opportunities throughout training camp and practice periods this season where different coaches had to call plays just for this exact situation. This is something that we’ve been preparing for, as I explained to the players again this morning. Listen, starting in the spring when we started out on Zoom, this is nothing new to us and it’s not unique. Missing a day of practice is not something unique in the league this year. It’s something as business is being done, you just have to be able to make sure you don’t lock your knees and keep on moving forward. Our guys have done very well through virtual learning. Jason was still very involved this morning in the Zoom meetings with the team, just as he would have been if he was in the building. We’ve stayed connected in terms of calling the plays. Freddie is more than capable. Again, I’ve been on staffs where he’s called the plays. I’ve been on staffs where he’s called the plays against us. I can tell you from experience, going into playing Cleveland last year, one thing you had to tell the players repeatedly throughout the week was how explosive that team could be, how schematically sound they were and they were going to look to find mismatches on you. Look, I have all the confidence in the world in Freddie, along with all of our coaches on this staff.
Q: Is this week more complex now in the sense of Daniel (Jones) and whether he continues to make progress, and now your coordinator is dealing with the COVID. I’m just wondering about the challenges that you’re facing this week, have they been amplified here?
A: No, I think we always make it an emphasis on thriving on adversity. As I said a few weeks ago, it’s adapt or die. Look, something happens, we just keep moving on. We have plans in place. We have a process that we stick to for each game. What’s important right now is that we get all the players prepared to play Sunday night.
Q: How does this affect Daniel, his rehab and your evaluation of him?
A: I’d say the only thing really, he actually was allowed to come in the building today. We had some treatment available for some guys that are either on IR or guys that needed treatment. They were the only players in the building today. But in terms of Daniel, the evaluation has obviously been put off a day as far as him moving around. Look, I was encouraged with how he moved around yesterday at practice, how he threw the ball, how he was in the pocket. That was very encouraging. That being said, we’ll have to see him at really a faster tempo. Tomorrow will be really the day we’ll evaluate that out there. I’d say obviously with two injuries, it’s a little bit different situation than it was just last week. But he’s making progress, he’s doing everything the trainers ask him to and he’s working hard. We just need to make sure we do a good job of really watching him tomorrow at practice and make the best decision.
Q: With Freddie, has he always been sort of the backup play caller or do you change that week to week? How does that process work?
A: I think Freddie’s experience in this league of calling plays and coordinating an offense is something that fits into what we’re doing right now. That being said, we’ve had a number of coaches call plays in practice, both for their own development as well as for our development as a team to make sure that we have people in place to call plays. If Freddie wasn’t available, there are also coaches after him that would be the next guy up to call the plays. We make sure that we talk continuously throughout the week, not only what we’re calling but why we’re calling it, so we understand situationally how the game plan has to unfold on the grass and why we’re in certain situations and certain calls. We don’t want to play battleship football where we’re just calling plays and hoping to hit something. We want to have a plan in place for why we’re calling certain things.
Q: I know we usually ask you about familiarity about Freddie just being on the staff. I know how much that’s important to you to kind of drill down with coaches. Is there any hesitancy to have Freddie in this situation knowing that it’s his former team? However emotional it may be for him or for them to see him again.
A: I try to take emotion out of everything. I don’t really think that’s an issue with anything. Freddie will be available to talk tomorrow with the coordinators. He can speak for himself more on that. I have no apprehension at all of putting Freddie in there just because of familiarity with another team. To me, it would be more of a strength than anything else. I think everyone here is a professional. Everybody has some kind of a familiarity with players you’ve coached, coaches you’ve worked for or previous organizations you’ve worked at. It’s a small league and that’s just the nature of it. When the ball kicks off, you kind of tune out some of the outside noise and you get tunneled in there and it’s just a game.
Q: You said you had no high-risk contacts and almost minimal close contacts. Are there some people that have to be isolated in addition to Jason as close contacts?
A: No. In fact, the high risk is based on the amount of time. Really, we talk about the close contacts, there’s obviously a number of guys that may have had 10 seconds here, 30 seconds there. There was nothing that was cumulative enough to put them on that list of any type of a person that registers being isolated or removed from the team. We’re very fortunate.
Q: Was this close enough to game day where it goes back to Sunday and his contacts with people?
A: To my knowledge, no. From what I understand, we really worked on the contact tracing from yesterday. One thing we were fortunate of as an organization is we worked Monday and Tuesday outside the building. I came in to do some media obligations and do a couple things in the building, personnel wise. Other than that, the coaches worked at home. Having the building empty on Monday and Tuesday and really meeting as a coaching staff through zoom, that’s really removed a lot of potential close contacts and high risks that may have came up.
Q: Is Joe Webb caught up enough to where it’s possible he could be your backup quarterback if Colt McCoy were to start?
A: I think his experience in the past of playing quarterback would kind of put him in that category. He’s meeting right now in three different meeting rooms. Two on offense and special teams. He’s a guy that’s got some versatility. We’ll use Joe wherever available. That being said, we’re trying to manage reps between Daniel, Colt (McCoy) and (Clayton) Thorson. There hasn’t been a lot right now for Webb. That would probably be strictly more of an emergency role. There’s been some other guys on our roster we worked throughout training camp and the season that may fit that emergency role a little bit better because of their knowledge of the offense and their experience here in what we would do with that emergency quarterback package. Joe is a guy we brought in here. We intend on giving him a shot to play. He’s a guy that’s got a lot of experience. He’s still on the practice squad. He’s taking reps in individual and some group work. He’s doing a lot on the scout teams now as well.
Q: With this being a Sunday night game, is there any chance that Saturday becomes more extensive to make up for not being out there Thursday?
A: Absolutely. In fact, our plan right now is to kind of have a hybrid day tomorrow where it’s a little bit mixed with a Thursday and a Friday of what we need to get on the field. Saturday morning, we’ll make sure we come in, we’ll be on the field for a walkthrough for about an hour. We’ll kind of treat this the same way we would like the Philly game on Thursday night. Where we had walkthroughs throughout the week for about an hour at a time on the grass. What we’ll be able to do is come in Saturday night at the hotel, review a little bit of tape. Have some night before meetings. On Sunday morning, because you have the extra time, we can do what we call the hotel walkthrough. That’s offense walking through the play sheet. Defense walking through some adjustments, talking through some variables that may come up in the game. This game being flexed really gave us some extra time to really build in.
Q: What has Jason been able to do today? Is he still going about it as a usual day as much as he can?
A: Yeah, because the coaches are all working virtually, his role hasn’t changed.
Q: I’m not sure if you actually played against Freddie when he was an offensive coordinator and a play caller.
A: Last year, I wasn’t a player, but I was a coach. Last year when he was at Cleveland, we played them in New England. He was on the other side calling plays.
Q: What do you know about him as a play caller?
A: He’s intelligent. I think Freddie does a good job of seeing the defense and understanding what his players are capable of. I think Freddie sees the game through a big picture perspective. I’ve always respected how he’s able to look at a defense and understand their strengths and understand our players. I think it builds him into where he has been successful. One thing about Freddie, he’s been in a lot of different systems. He brings a lot of different knowledge, more run heavy systems, more pass heavy systems. He’s worked under different coordinators and coaches. I think that’s something that builds into his overall knowledge of the game and how he sees it. With that being said, our offense is our offense. We’ll see how it adjusts based on the game plan. We’ll see how it adjusts based on how the rest of this week and how practice goes. We were out there yesterday for Wednesday practice which we had some time on the grass for group work and fundamentals in individual. The other part of that is, we had a walkthrough. We still have to get the guys out there with some good tempo and moving. That will declare a lot of the schemes that we’re going to take into the game. Sometimes you have to put enough out there in practice to see what you do and don’t like. We’ll see as the week goes on where we are going to be Sunday night.
Q: Would you prefer him to just sort of fill in for Jason and continue doing what you’re doing or sort of be himself even though it’s such a short period of time here?
A: We still want to stick to what our offense has really worked on this season. Make sure we’re not throwing too many curveballs at the guys that are out there in the huddle calling it and playing it. That being said, you can work on certain elements and how you want to go into a game plan and how you want to call a game. Ultimately, when the time comes, the play caller has to call the plays.
Q: With the evaluation of Daniel pushed off a day obviously, how does that impact getting the starting quarterback ready? I’m assuming a Friday is ideally the day you want the starter taking most of the first team reps, but you will also be evaluating his health? Does it make it less likely you will be able to play him on Sunday night?
A: No, I don’t think so. I think tomorrow being a hybrid day of kind of Thursday to Friday and Saturday will be the day that ultimately we want to have a decision. To kind of go through that final walkthrough with those guys on the grass.