Head Coach Joe Judge
December 23, 2020
Opening Statement: It’s Wednesday, we’ve turned the page from last week. We’re on to Baltimore today with all of our focus, all of our concentration, going forward. Obviously, this has been a very successful organization. Since John (Harbaugh) got there, they’ve done a tremendous job. It starts with the defense and the kicking game and the running game, and how they control the pace of the game and the physicality. You have to have a lot of respect for the attitude they play with as a team, and that’s really transitioned within the different rosters and coaches that have come on through. But John’s really kept that constant with his own mentality and how he’s built the team.
You talk about them on each phase of the game, I think you have to start with John on special teams. Chris (Horton) as the coordinator is doing a phenomenal job for them right now. They have a very explosive core. They have great specialists with (Justin) Tucker and Sam (Koch). I think these guys play on a field that’s a little bit shorter than their opponents with the ability that Justin has. When they cross the 50, they have a shot to kick long field goals with his accuracy and leg strength. Obviously, we have to do a good job defending these guys on defense to keep them off those short fields. But they do a tremendous job with it. Their coverage units are top of the league. They do a great job in the return game. (Devin) Duvernay is doing a great job as an explosive returner in the kickoff return game. We’re going to have to have a big priority this week on playing with good, physical fundamentals and playing sound and alert in the kicking game.
Talking about their defense, Wink (Don Martindale) does a great job of really spinning the dial. It’s all about the pressure with these guys. He manages to have a lot of combinations of blitzes and pressures throughout the game. Everyone gets a swing of the bat, as we say with them. It’s corners, it’s safeties, it’s nickels, it’s linebackers. It’s one at a time, it’s two at a time, it’s all of them coming. They’ll play cover zero and then they’ll drop into max coverage and change it up on you right there so you have to be alert. But it’s all about communicating pre-snap, and you have to go ahead and make sure you’re playing on one page as a unit. They do a great job of spinning the dial.
In terms of their offense, when it comes to Greg (Roman), he’s going to find a way to scheme you up in the run game and create explosive plays on the ground. This is a physical team. It all obviously starts with the quarterback. This guy is a different type of player in the league. You’ve asked me a lot the last few weeks about mobile quarterbacks and is there a transition. I think this guy is a unicorn in terms of how he can play and how he really makes explosive plays with his legs, along with the arm strength and the plays down the field he’s capable of making right there. You talk about their skill group as well and their backs. Everybody is capable at any point of breaking a huge, explosive play. They play tough, they’ve been banged up throughout the year, but they’re well-coached and their offensive line is playing well right now. You talk about them as a team, they obviously went through that three-week stretch where they played on kind of not normal weeks. Short schedules, long schedules, guys being pulled out for COVID, whatever the reason is. Obviously, they’re getting guys back now healthy. They’re really hitting their stride. This is a very good team. It’s going to take everything we have to prepare for them. We have to have our best on Sunday. With that being said, I’ll open it up to any questions you have.
Q: You and John Harbaugh are two of very few head coaches in the league who have a strict, mainly special teams coordinator background. Do you have any relationship? Have you met John? With the way hiring practices are kind of leaning in the league with offensive coaches, do you find that a lot of special teams coaches may be kind of overlooked for these roles?
A: I don’t want to get into too much of the hiring of who’s overlooked, whoever it may be. I’ve always been told if you’re good, they’ll find you. Obviously, John was a very accomplished coach himself. He coached defensive backs for a year, but he was obviously one of the top special teams coaches for a long time. His units over the last decade have been in the top groups in the entire league. They make explosive game-changing plays. It’s blocking kicks, returning kicks. His teams play tough and fundamentally sound. The one thing I think that he does a tremendous job of, and I think it ties into the kicking game background, is when guys come into the program, and you look at the evolution of their roster, you see a lot of younger players who start off in the kicking game and become good core players. You look forward two years from then and the impact they’re making on offense or defense, and how they hang around the roster and just keep replacing players who they may have lost through free agency or just aged out. But that’s something that always stands out to me about his program and how he’s built it. They truly develop their players on the roster. They have a great personnel department. Obviously, Ozzie (Newsome) is not doing it anymore, but they’ve continued with the same pattern of how they build the team. I think the way they identify guys who are maybe a little bit under the radar and then develop them within their program, this is definitely a team you watch through the preseason. They always have a couple guys that you say, ‘ok, they can’t keep all these linebackers, surely. Someone is going to be available.’ They find a way to keep the guys that are impact players, and it helps them throughout the course of not only their special teams, but it keeps their defense developing over time as well.
Q: What advice has Bill Belichick given you about being a head coach in the NFL?
A: I think the biggest thing is just be yourself. Trust what you’ve learned through the process of everywhere you’ve worked as an assistant. Take what fits your personality and philosophy, and then make it your own. You can’t try to be anybody else. I’ve taken time to talk to him and Coach (Nick) Saban, Coach (Sylvester) Croom, Coach (Jackie) Sherrill and other coaches that I’ve worked under in the past and picked their brains on it. The one thing that’s unanimous is they all come back to be yourself. That’s something I think I’m kind of good at doing. I’m not going to try to do anything outside of my own personality, and that’s kind of been good enough. We have to make sure we do better in a lot of things, though.
Q: The Ravens are averaging 40 points a game the last three weeks. What have you seen them do differently these three weeks that maybe they weren’t doing before?
A: I think a lot of it ties into the health of the team. They’re getting their players back. These guys are very, very talented. They’re very physical. With these guys, it all starts up front with the run. You have to stop the run. Now that’s a lot easier said than done. When you talk about this quarterback, I’m sure everyone every week says we have to eliminate this guy’s plays or limit how he makes plays. The fact is, you just have to tie it back into fundamentals. He’s going to have runs. You have to do a good job tackling in space. He’s going to throw the ball down the field. You have to play in phase with the receivers and try to eliminate the explosive plays down the field. Greg does a great job of scheming teams up. Like I said initially, it’s all going to come through the run game at first. But that’s going to tie into the pass game, the play actions. Then if Lamar can extend it with his legs, which he’s obviously very, very capable of doing, he can go ahead and really give you headaches, either by pulling it down and running it or throwing the thing over your head down the field. In terms of what they’re doing differently, they’ve obviously had a lot more success with the pass game as of late. But I don’t see that as being anything different with what they’re doing schematically. I think it’s just something that’s been a strength for this team all along, and now they’re healthy again.
Q: Where do things stand with Daniel (Jones)? What do you expect to see him do today at practice?
A: We’re going to throw him through practice today, tomorrow and see where he’s at. Look, in a perfect world, I’d love to have an answer as soon as possible. I’m not going to go ahead and set a time mark on this. But we’ll come out of Friday, Friday after practice, with some kind of an answer. But we’re just going to throw him out there and let him practice, see how he does. We’ve gotten good feedback from him and the trainers, but again, we’ll have to put him out there and see how he’s moving around today.
Q: Do you have a relationship with John Harbaugh? Did you talk to him at all about going from special teams coordinator to a head coach?
A: I wouldn’t say that we’re very close. I have a tremendous amount of respect for John. It’s a small league, so you know who guys are out there. I’ve obviously followed his career and studied him from what he’s done on special teams. There’s some common links. I worked for a guy named Scotty O’Brien, he’s actually close with Scotty. There’s a lot of similarities in what I’ve kind of learned special teams wise and what I see his teams do. You kind of watch some schemes sometimes and you say, okay, we called it whatever we may have called it and they may have a different name, but it’s the same scheme. There’s a lot of concepts within the fundamentals and philosophies and the situational stuff that apply both ways. A ton of respect for him as a coach. He’s obviously done a great job building this team in the way he wants to. We talk about building a bully, building a physical team. Starting with the run game, the physical defense and controlling the field position in the kicking game. They’ve really prioritized what he really learned as being a special teams coach in terms of having lead specialists and good core to help win that field position.
Q: Are the Ravens the type of franchise you want the Giants to become?
A: I’m not going to compare us to any other type of organization. I think they have demonstrated a level of consistency and excellence in this league and how they’ve played it. I like the way they have built this team to be a physical team. I like the way they develop their players. I think there’s a lot of things you can look around the league and study the different organizations and teams and how they’ve had success over time. They’re far from the only team that I look at in terms of how they manage their roster, develop their players, and they build in terms of how they practice on a weekly basis and how they game plan. You try to study everyone in the league and kind of make sure you’re not missing out on anything. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. That being said, I’m not going to throw anything out there, we want to be like this organization or that organization. We want to be the New York Giants.
Q: I asked John Harbaugh a few minutes ago if he believes in an ah ha moment when you find your franchise quarterback. He kind of laughed and said he thinks he had it just a couple games into that 2018 season with Lamar (Jackson). Do you believe that you’ll have that moment? Do you think you’ve already had that moment with Daniel Jones?
A: I don’t know if there is an ah ha moment. I’m not saying he’s wrong to have had his own ah ha moment. To me, it’s a string of moments. Watching Daniel work, watching the respect he has in the locker room, watching him improve throughout this season. I think he’s demonstrated a level of toughness and leadership and knowledge on the field that gives us confidence to put him out there and build with Daniel. I’m not going to point to one moment, but I can talk about this entire season of this guy has definitely earned my respect. I kind of made it very hard on him from the beginning in a lot of ways and he hasn’t blinked.
Q: He’s your guy? If you ever get a second and a half to think about next year, he’s your quarterback?
A: Daniel Jones is our quarterback.
Q: You just mentioned Lamar Jackson is a unicorn. There aren’t many of those – actually my neighbor has one outside his front steps – but there aren’t many of those in the NFL. Because he’s a unicorn – you know, the Detroit Pistons had the Jordan rules for Michael Jordan – is Lamar Jackson that special? I mean, you played Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, but Lamar Jackson seems like a different cat. Do you have to have special rules in place to go against him?
A: I think with any of these quarterbacks, you have to go into the game and find ways of helping your team by trying to find a way to make them play left-handed, if you will. Again, that’s easier said than done. I think when it comes down to him, it comes down to being disciplined and fundamentally sound. You have to be able to tackle in space, that’s the biggest thing. We played them last year and I told the team this morning, the thing I came away from that game saying was I didn’t realize he was that fast. You see him on tape running away from guys, you know he’s fast, but when you see guys in person and you watch them athletically up close, that’s sometimes when you have to realize that this guy’s a lot better than I thought he was on tape and you have a tremendous amount of respect for him on tape. You look at this team of how much they outscore teams in the first quarter, I think a lot of that is teams are not ready to go, not that they weren’t prepared, but they’re not truly ready to go because they’re surprised by the speed or they’re not prepared or mentally ready for the schemes they’re going to see. When you talk about this offense, you have to be ready to go from the jump. You can’t go in there, dip your toe in the water and say, ‘Okay, we’ll get a feel for how this game is going to go’ because by the time you get a feel for it, they’ve got 21 points on you.
Q: Do you have anybody, a receiver or somebody, who in practice can simulate that?
A: We’ve got a number of guys we’ve talked about actually and we’ll do our best in practice to try and simulate him running around and create some tackling drills and things of that nature, but there's a difference between someone imitating him and the real thing.
Q: In addition to that, as far as simulation goes, I know the string of quarterbacks that you’ve faced, but as far as the sudden speed and the way they accelerate, is Lamar similar to what you guys faced in Kyler? And the fact that you’ve faced Kyler just a couple weeks ago, at least your guys have seen it in a game, that kind of speed. Does that translate at all or is it a completely different animal?
A: I think you can make the common link in that they’re both very effective with their legs, they can both extend plays, they can run down the field and they have great vision and instincts, but I think there’s a different style with them. We have to talk all the time in evaluating players, what kind of receiver is he? Is he a straight-line, size/speed receiver? Is he a quicker than fast receiver or shifty in space? How they fit those dynamics. To me, when I look at Lamar, he’s a tough, tough runner. I’m not saying anything about any other quarterback. When you watch this guy run, he’s not looking to slide, he’s not looking to get out of bounds, this guy’s looking to extend plays. When he gets going, you can tell ‘score’ is the only thing on his mind. He’s got a wiggle to him at full speed that’s very rare. It’s kind of like trying to tackle Gumby, this guy can just change direction, it’s almost like his body moves in ways that you can’t simulate in practice. This guy is extremely fast, he hits that top gear in just a couple steps and at the same time he can stop on a dime and change directions. This guy’s got great running instincts. You know, you watch tape of all the teams they’ve played, it’s not like those teams haven’t watched tape as well and said, ‘This guy can really run and this is how he does it.’ It’s just you’re got to prepare as best as you can with your team to simulate those cutbacks and that acceleration. Again, there’s not a lot of guys like this. If we had a guy like this on our team, I’m sure we’d find a way to put the ball in his hands, too. So we’ve got to find a different combination of guys in different parts of practice to simulate different aspects of what he does as a player and then our guys have to do a really good job of watching tape and then understanding it’s going to come down to the fundamentals we play with in space on him that will help us make plays.