Head Coach Joe Judge
December 31, 2020
Q: Are you celebrating hard tonight for New Year’s?
A: Yeah, it’s going to be a wild night, man. Break down some tape, get tomorrow’s practice finalized, try to get a little bit of sleep. We’re rolling through it. The good news is it’s going to be 2021 for an entire year, so if I don’t get to tonight, I’ll get to catch up later on.
Q: You talk all the time about improvement. You see the improvement and the results will come. When you look back at that first game against the Cowboys 10-11 weeks ago, are there specific things you can look at and share that ‘we are better now than we were then’ and maybe a couple of things where ‘I’m disappointed, we’re not a lot better now than we were then’?
A: Obviously, there are a lot of things I look at with a very critical eye. I do see a lot of improvement from the team as a whole. This is far from the team that played the Cowboys the first time. Again, like I said yesterday, they’re a much-improved team as well. You can see that very clearly on the tape. There are a lot of things that stand out to me. You watch the tape, look, you kind of flash on back to Daniel’s (Jones) play and the offensive line. I’ve seen a lot of growth and development with the offensive line. It’s allowed Daniel to stand back there in the pocket more confidently and not have to escape all the time and extend plays to get it down the field. I saw a lot of good catches from our receivers in that early game on extended plays. I’ve seen a lot of plays throughout the season that reflect and mirror that we improved from that game going forward in contested catches as well. You look at Sterling (Shepard), you look at Golden (Tate), you look at (Darius) Slayton, you look at those guys down the field with some contested catches. Now we have to be more consistent as a coaching staff. Execution from the players all across the board really raised our level of play. But there are a number of things I look at from that game that you can say, ‘ok, we’re a lot better.’ You turn that tape on from 12 weeks ago and you can look at that, and I’ve watched it several times this week at least leading into it, and it kind of jumps out at you like, ‘man, I can see individual improvement from a lot of players. I can see collective improvement from units, and I can see collective improvement from the entire team as a whole.’ There are a lot of encouraging things going forward. Our guys have done a good job this year of working hard and making a lot of improvement. There are a lot of guys who are younger players, a lot of guys who are very new to our program at the point of coming in who didn’t go through an entire training camp with us or joined us maybe around the backend of training camp. I see those guys really fitting into the systems well and making a lot of gains.
Q: How tough of a matchup is this for your secondary? What makes their three top receivers so challenging? Because obviously, you guys have (James) Bradberry who’s taken away a top receiver quite often this season, but this team has two, it seems like it almost has three number ones.
A: I think it’s an accurate statement with what you just said right there in terms of the whole label of number one receivers. I think all three of these guys could fit into that label of being a top receiver for a team and a feature matchup guy. I think the thing that’s unique about these guys, you get a lot of receivers throughout the league who maybe are bigger, faster targets who are down the field threats. Then you get other guys who are maybe kind of smaller, quicker that are catch and run threats. These guys all have good size, they have very good speed, they can build their speed and hold their speed down the field, they have good hands to make contested catches, but they do an exceptional job of extending plays. You can look early in the year with the deep shots down the field. Then you can look as recent as last week with Andy (Dalton) hitting a slant to (Amari) Cooper, and he takes it for a huge gain. Hitting the screen to (Michael) Gallup, huge gain. CeeDee Lamb over the middle, huge gains. They learn how to really use these guys in different situations. I think Kellen (Moore) does a great job of creating matchups, isolating defenders, making you play one on one ball. Andy’s very smart to understand where he needs to go with the ball, the ball gets out fast, he doesn’t hold it very long. Most of his passes are really completed inside of 20 yards. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an explosive play. We have to do a good job of tackling in space, and these are all very talented runners in space with the ball.
Q: I have sort of a big picture question for you. You’ve worked with Dave (Gettleman) for a year. How would you describe that working relationship with you two?
A: I’d say the entire building since I’ve been here has really had one vision going forward. I’ve enjoyed working with Dave the entire year. We’ve done a lot of good things together. I really enjoyed the process through free agency and the draft. Obviously, went through training camp, there was a lot of logistical work we had to cooperate with throughout the spring and summer in terms of getting the setups ready for when the team came back. There was a lot of cooperation work throughout the building. I think everyone’s doing a good job right now in terms of just understanding where we want to go and pushing in that direction. There’s been a lot of really good communication with Dave, Kevin (Abrams), Mark (Koncz), Tim (McDonnell), all the guys working in personnel in terms of the kinds of players that we’re really looking for that fit into our systems, and looking around the league and who’s available on the street as well as building in the draft with Chris (Pettit) and his staff in terms of who’s going to fit what we’re looking for. I’m very pleased how we came into last spring with free agency and the draft. I think all those guys we brought in have contributed to this team, have developed in time and have helped lay a foundation for this team. We have to keep drafting well, we have to keep signing free agents that will build not only within our culture but our schemes and give us versatility. But I’d say the cooperation on both aspects, the building has been working as one and that’s been a very positive thing.
Q: Quick question. In the last 24 hours, you guys have been very open about Daniel being limited as far as his mobility. As an older guy, would you ever sandbag an opponent?
A: Can you say that one more time?
Q: Would you ever deceive an opponent? We used the word sandbag when I was growing up.
A: Look, I read Daniel’s comments yesterday. Probably a little more forthcoming than I would have been with it right there. But as I said yesterday, we’ll do whatever it takes to win the game. But again, I can’t stress it enough, I’m going to always put the players’ health in consideration on how we call the game. I can’t turn around, as you said yesterday, and ‘take the gloves off.’ Well, the gloves come off and you expose someone to long-term injury, that’s not always the most opportune thing. We’re going to make sure that we always put our players in a position of strength, and that includes their health.
Q: Do you view this as sort of a playoff game? The way it works out, it’s essentially an elimination game. You’ve been in a lot of these games. As a coach, do you handle them differently? Do you need to make sure your players stay within themselves or approach it any differently knowing that the intensity might be at a different level?
A: Look, our approach has been the same all year in terms of putting everything we have into every game. We have 16 opportunities a year to go out there and perform and execute. This is one of the 16. Look, they all add up collectively. It’s not the 16th game that means something more than the first 15. You have to take advantage of all of your opportunities. There are times this year we had to play better and take advantage of it. There were times that we played good games and came out with the results we were looking for. But we need to make them all count along the way if you want to go ahead and talk about anything past those 16 games. But in terms of us, our players have come to work every week this season, worked tirelessly, they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do, they prepared well. We have to do a good job as coaches making sure these last 72 hours or so leading into the game, we do the best job possible preparing our players. Then on game day, make the necessary adjustments when they come up and stay ahead of them.
Q: You’ve been pretty clear about Daniel being your long-term quarterback. Where is your level of confidence in the offensive system that he’s running? What kind of changes do you have to implement whenever the offseason starts? Obviously, there’s only so much you can do week to week. What do you want to see from this offense when it takes the field for the 2021 season?
A: Well, I’m always going to look for our offense to evolve with the players we have in it. To me, the priority is getting good players in here, which I think we have, and then put them in positions where they can make plays. We just need to keep evolving as we go with the level of experience and the strengths of the players as they increase, and we get some young players in here as well. We have to make sure that we put them in positions they can execute without having to slow down mentally with how they play. But the vision of the offense to me is always going to be the same, to be a multiple team who can adjust on the fly, who can put our players in positions of strength so we can make adjustments when we need to.