Joe Judge speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine. | Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
New coach Joe Judge still won’t even utter the quarterback’s name
The first controversy, if you want to call it that, of the Joe Judge era as head coach of the New York Giants is one that Judge and GM Dave Gettleman have created, intentionally or unintentionally, all by themselves.
The controversy? Who is the team’s starting quarterback and are the Giants committed to Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft, as their quarterback for the foreseeable future.
How have the Giants created this …. this … controversy? … question? … uncertainty … drama? Whatever it is that you want to call it?
Well, that’s the easy part. Roughly six weeks into his tenure as Giants coach, Judge still will not say the name Daniel Jones. He won’t actually say the name of any player but the one Giants media continues to ask about is Jones, the assumed franchise quarterback. Even Gettleman, who professed “full bloom love” for Jones before drafting him and said in the past that Jones is the team’s franchise quarterback, is toeing the Judge line.
What is the Judge line?
“So I’ll kind of be very upfront with everyone right now in terms of how I’m going to deal with analyzing specific players. I want to understand this because it’s important to me. Every one of our players are going to come here with a blank slate and be able to compete from the ground up from Day 1 and I’m not going to establish any kind of status or hierarchy within the individual players or position groups by spending a month talking about individuals,” Judge said. “That’s important to me. I want you guys to understand my reason for that. I can’t tell everyone they’ve got an equal slate and they show up on April 7th and I’ve spent a month talking about a specific player. Okay? Everyone’s got the same opportunity on a daily basis to compete …
“ … my reason for not going into individual players at this point is it’s important that our players understand. The only thing that’s going to be relevant is how they perform from day one moving forward.”
Pressed on the idea that his remarks would be perceived in the media and fan base as the new head coach not supporting the quarterback he inherited, Judge disagreed.
“He’ll understand over time how much we’re going to support all the players,” Judge said. “I understand and respect the outside perspective. What’s important to me is the guys inside that building understand why I’m doing things and that I have their best interests at heart and over time they’ll understand.”
At Judge’s Jan. 9 introductory press conference, Gettleman made clear who the Giants’ was, is, and was going to be going forward.
“We believe Daniel is our guy,” was Gettleman’s straightforward assessment.
Coming off a rookie season in which Jones completed 61.9 percent of his passes, threw 24 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions and set a number of franchise rookie passing records there was — and really still is — no serious reason to believe anything else.
Tuesday, asked if he was “fully committed” to Jones as the Giants’ 2020 starting quarterback, Gettleman deferred.
“You know what Joe said. He’s got a clean slate and everybody’s competing.”
So, of course, it is easy to push the perception that the Giants don’t believe Jones is really their guy. If you want to. And you know that for some in the New York/New Jersey media any opening to create the slightest bit of controversy is like manna from heaven. It’s irresistible.
So, what is really going on here?
Figuring that out is the tricky part.
We don’t really know Judge yet. Media members like myself have had two scrums with him. From my view, I think I believe that he means what he says. I’m just not always certain what he says actually means.
I believe Judge wants all of the players who report when offseason workouts begin to feel like they have an opportunity to compete for something. That roles and jobs haven’t been pre-determined.
That’s fine. And good in many ways. We know, though, that Saquon Barkley is going to be the franchise running back. We should, after last season, be able to trust that the Giants are going forward and trying to build a team around Jones.
As a rookie, even once had assumed the mantel of starter, Jones had to deal with the specter of franchise icon Eli Manning still being in uniform. Now, he should be prepping for a season when he knows the Giants are his team.
Instead, we somehow have arrived at a place with a muddled message. Maybe it means nothing. Maybe Judge and Gettleman have privately assured Jones that he’s the guy. I would hope that’s the case. The last thing the Giants afford to do is place doubt in the young man’s mind over whether or not the new head coach believes Jones is the right guy to lead the franchise.
Maybe the Giants, with the No. 4 overall pick, are just posturing. After all, there are quarterback-needy teams directly behind them in the draft order. Maybe they are trying to plant the seed that they might follow the Arizona Cardinals’ model and draft a first-round quarterback in back-to-back years after a coaching change.
It would only take one sucker to fall for that ruse to land the Giants a massive draft haul for moving down a spot or two. Maybe Gettleman and Judge are looking for that sucker.
Maybe, though, they have taken the well-intentioned idea of letting players know they have a clean slate and nothing is pre-determined, pushed it a little too far and created a “do the Giants believe Daniel Jones is their guy or don’t they?” narrative that they could have easily avoided.
“Here’s the bottom line. You guys are going to, you know, if that’s your perception then nothing I can do about it,” Gettleman said. “He finished the season as our starting quarterback.”
Well, yes, there actually is something the Giants could do about it. Judge and Gettleman could simply say “Daniel Jones is our starting quarterback” and be done with it.
Only they know for certain why they won’t.