New Giants coach Joe Judge sounds a lot like a 38-year-old Tom Coughlin clone — with one caveat

Jason Owens

For New York Giants fans yearning for a Tom Coughlin revival, Thursday was music to their ears.

In a cliche-filled introductory news conference, rookie head coach Joe Judge spoke about culture, fundamentals, standards, avoiding shortcuts, old-school mentality, accountability, showing up every day and punching people in the nose.

Also, be on time.

“What I’m about is an old-school, physical mentality,” Judge said when introducing himself to the Giants media corps. “We’re gonna put a product on the field that the people of this city and the region will be proud of. Because this team will represent this area.

“We will play fast, we will play downhill, we will play aggressive. We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes. ... We will play fundamentally sound. We will not beat ourselves.”

This sounds familiar

For longtime Giants fans who watched the Coughlin and Bill Parcells eras, a lot of what Judge said on on Thursday sounded familiar. Which, on one hand, is certainly welcome.

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The Giants tallied four Vince Lombardi trophies under coaches who thrived on “old-school, physical mentality.”

On the other hand, what worked in past decades doesn’t necessarily work in 2020, especially when it comes to player management. And outside of a pair of unexpected hot playoff runs, a lot of what Coughlin did with the Giants and elsewhere failed.

Most recently, his overzealous discipline and fining system with the Jacksonville Jaguars saw him unceremoniously fired from his front-office position.

Where Judge differentiates himself

And Judge, who was clearly self-aware of the image he presented Thursday, made sure to differentiate himself from Coughlin on one significant front.

“I’m about caring for players in the locker room,” Judge said. “Let’s not forget there’s a human element to this game. Let’s not think that in professional sports, paying a paycheck to somebody makes it absent of empathy.”

That is key. Aside from the on-field failures, what ultimately cost Coughlin his job in Jacksonville was an acute lack of empathy for his players.

Joe Judge presented himself as an empathetic, caring version of Tom Coughlin on Thursday. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Joe Judge presented himself as an empathetic, caring version of Tom Coughlin on Thursday. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

But yeah, be on time

Judge, 38, doesn’t have any ties to Coughlin. And there’s no indication that he directly intended to channel Coughlin from the podium. But it’s hard not to hear echoes of Coughlin from a Giants coach who made showing up on time a centerpiece of his introduction to the broader public.

“It’s fundamentals,” Judge said. “Those fundamentals will start for us in the classroom. They’ll start with being in meetings on time. They’ll start with being on the field in time — in proper dress.”

He repeated himself later in his 30-minute news conference.

“We’re gonna start by showing up on time, by having a plan. For executing that plan. It’s gonna be fundamentals.”

He also said the two most important elements of head coaching are managing “time and people.”

Judge’s ties to hard-nosed coaches

A Bill Belichick disciple, Judge is tangentially connected to Parcells and the hard-nosed coaching imprint the coaching giant left on the NFL.

He spent 2012-18 working as an assistant and special teams coordinator under Belichick with the New England Patriots. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant to Nick Saban at Alabama, another famously hard-nosed winner.

Before that?

He had a brief stint as a kindergarten physical education teacher in between college coaching jobs.

So while Judge spent much of his time at the podium Thursday preaching old-school methods, he did so with a caveat that suggests he might also a players’ coach.

“It’s meant to be a physical game,” Judge said. “It’s for tough people. We will practice in pads. We will practice live tackling.

“Not to make a statement that we’re trying to be tough. We’re going to practice live tackling because I believe in doing it safely.”

How he strikes that balance will play a significant role in whether or not he succeeds.

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