ESM EXCLUSIVE: Justin Tuck comments on the 2021 New York Giants

The Big Blue legend spoke to ESM about the modern New York Giants’ endeavors as a showdown looms in Arlington.

As he proved over 11 NFL seasons…all but the final couple spent with the New York Giants…Justin Tuck is a man of many talents. For his next trick, Tuck hinted that he’d like to prove he’s capable of a skill many Twitter users have bestowed upon him.

Similar surnames have led some football-minded users to believe that Tuck is not only still an active NFL participant but is also making gridiron history: some have credited Justin Tucker’s league-record 66-yard field goal earned during Week 3 action to Tuck, apparently missing the final two letters attached to the Baltimore kicker.

Tuck believes he’s capable of such a triple…but he’s going to need some help.

“60-mile an hour wind behind me? Absolutely, I’d kick it,” Tuck told ESM with a smile.

Tuck returned to New Jersey this week for a charity golf tournament hosted by former New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia’s PitCCh In Foundation. The two-time Super Bowl champion was one of many New York legends, including former blue teammate Victor Cruz, ready to take a few swings at Alpine Country Club in Demarest, but the happenings of the current bearers of blue weren’t far from Tuck’s mind.

By the time Tuck hit the links, the Giants (1-3) were hours removed from their first win of the season, a 27-21 overtime triumph over the New Orleans Saints. Though New York has struggled in the early stages of the season, a prime opportunity to reinsert themselves into the NFL playoff conversation awaits in the later portions of this Sunday afternoon’s action in the form of a divisional showdown with the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).

New york Giants, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan
 Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

While the idea of the Giants’ win in New Orleans launching a playoff push is far-fetched to some, Tuck knows how one game can change the course of an NFL season: the 2007-08 Giants began the year with losses in their first two contests before erasing a two-possession deficit en route to victory in Washington. The Giants would wind up with 10 wins before shocking the world with their magical run to Super Bowl XLII, which yielded the first of two Super Bowl rings for Tuck.

Tuck felt it was hard to compare the modern Giants’ endeavor in the Big Easy to that fateful afternoon in Landover 14 years prior. He did, however, notice the missing ingredient on display against the Saints that allowed a struggling franchise to finally take a step forward.

“There is some measure of change that happened this week that wasn’t necessarily (there in) what happened weeks before that,” Tuck said. “The coaches and the players know what that is: that might be how they practice, that might be how they watch film, that might be just the thought process that they were going into this game with or kept throughout the game. In other games, they might have been like oh, we’re down again.”

“That mental capacity just decreased throughout the game. When they kept a level head and just said, listen, let’s just finish this in the fourth quarter you typically play well right?” Tuck continued. “I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but you know that team knows it, that coaching staff knows it, and hopefully we can find a way to recreate that weekend (in New Orleans) week in and week out.”

To Tuck’s point, the Giants trailed by as much as 11 last weekend against the Saints before ending the game with 17 unanswered points. It was the Giants’ first win after trailing by multiple possessions since September 2019.

Though Tuck won’t claim to know or understand the current mindset of the Giants’ players and coaches, he appears to have faith in what head coach Joe Judge is building. Tuck revealed that he has been in contact with Judge, who has called upon Big Blue alumni to assist in the current build.

“He wants us in the building, he wants us to be involved. He wants us to kind of continue to showcase what we did and the things that our players did, to have a successful team,” Tuck said of his relationship with Judge. “I think that’s smart on his behalf because we have a lot of knowledge. You think about the guys who’ve come before this team and the success that we had and the failures that we learn from. I think it’s important for us to kind of showcase that.”

“What you need to know about Joe Judge is that he’s a worker…He’s not going to get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. He’s going to go do his job every day and just become like that blue-collar coach that has normally had success with the Giants.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Joe Judge downplays Troy Aikman’s remarks

new york giants, joe judge

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge isn’t looking to add more narratives to an already important division matchup on Sunday. Despite having a chance to play it up as motivation for the team, Judge had a very Belichick-like response when asked about Troy Aikman’s radio comments about the Giants.

“I don’t think we really need any external motivation to show up and do our jobs and do them effectively, to be honest with you. I think you have to understand the magnitude of every game you play,” Judge told reporters on Friday. “These division games are obviously no different, so if we need somebody else to kind of get us in the mind frame to play, I think we have other issues at hand.”

Aikman made headlines recently for appearing on radio in Dallas and saying that the Giants aren’t in the same class as the Cowboys. While it seems like that statement was true through the first three weeks of the season, the matter is murkier after the Giants upset the Saints in week 4. Some have said that Aikman is providing the Giants with easy ‘bulletin board material.’

Judge acknowledged the players taking note of it, but had a different narrative on the issue.

We don’t even have a bulletin board in there, to be honest with you. Everything’s screens and magnets and stuff now. We’re in the future now, so we don’t have bulletin boards anymore. Look, these guys are all active on Twitter and all that type of junk, so I’m sure they see stuff all the time.”

New York Giants enter week 5 as underdogs

Aside from his generally stern coaching style, it’s easy to see why Judge is downplaying Aikman’s comments – the Giants already have enough pressure on their shoulders without an added narrative about proving someone wrong.

While the Giants did make a big improvement in week 4, they come into the Dallas game affected by injuries on both sides of the ball. Wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are out for this game, and the same goes for safety Jabrill Peppers and guard Ben Bredeson.

Andrew Thomas is dealing with a foot injury, one which may be related to the injury that he had surgery for last season. His status is questionable, and it’s debatable if he can play full speed even if he does make it onto the field.

In other words, this Giants vs Cowboys game isn’t quite an even matchup. The Giants are underdogs both due to their record and their missing players, and it seems wise to avoid adding more narratives and pressure to this game on top of what is already there.

New York Giants: Joe Judge raises eyebrows with criticism of analytics

New York Giants, Joe Judge

For the past half decade, the New York Giants have been accused plenty of times of being an organization stuck in the past. While other franchises have had more success with rebuilds after adopting new strategies and taking a chance on outside personnel, the Giants have largely focused on loyalty to past figures from the team’s history.

One of the most common complaints about the Giants’ current offensive playbook is that many of their passing concepts look like they came from the 90s, and these complaints go all the way up to the teambuilding level where Dave Gettleman has been criticized often for taking a running back with the second pick in the modern NFL.

Those who feel the Giants have underperformed when it comes to modernizing for the times now have something else to criticize, as head coach Joe Judge added onto that trend by dismissing analytics while defending a controversial decision to not go for it on 4th down in Falcons territory in week 3.

In that specific situation, it’s been argued that more analytically adept teams would have weighed the odds and found that going for it is worth the risk. In any case, the decision came back to bite the Giants as they eventually lost the game by a slim margin – an outcome that could have been avoided with a few more points scored by the offense.

“It’s nice to look at the numbers and how they go through the flow of the game, but the analytics change based on the opponent, based on who you have available for the game and how the flow of the game is going, too,” Judge said while defending his decision.

“You can look at a stat sheet all you want. I promise you: If Excel was going to win football games, Bill Gates would be killing it right now.”

The remark about Excel and Bill Gates may rub some the wrong way due to the current state of the Giants. Right now, the Giants appear to be on a downwards trajectory while a number of other teams have turned around bad runs and found success after adopting more modern trends.

In fact, it’s not hard to make an argument that a team owned by Bill Gates would likely put together a more competent front office and coaching staff than what the Giants have now. The Seahawks, after all, are well known for their run of great drafting under the ownership of Microsoft associate Paul Allen, which brought them star players such as Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom secondary.

The Giants largely haven’t been able to get things to work under Dave Gettleman’s old school style. And while Gettleman has said things occasionally about leaning more into analytics, it remains unclear just what impact those efforts have had. While it’s impossible to know exactly what is going on in the front office, it looks from the outside like the Giants frequently lean back on their old-fashioned ways when the time for an important decision comes around.

Unless the Giants can find actual success with their own way of doing things, comments like Judge’s will continue to come off as tone deaf. And many fans will continue to rue the fact that the organization spites the idea of moving forward and handling their rebuild along more modern lines.

New York Giants: The expectations have been raised for Joe Judge after 0-3 start

new york giants, joe judge

Many were willing to give New York Giants head coach Joe Judge a break after his first season. The Giants were a bad team last year, but it was amid the circumstances of introducing an entirely new coaching staff and dealing with an offseason stricken by a pandemic. Daniel Jones was still a second year quarterback, and Saquon Barkley missed almost the entire season. In 2020, there were a lot of excuses.

But after an 0-3 start, which could very easily turn into an 0-5 start thanks to games in New Orleans and Dallas coming up, the performance of the Giants through three weeks can’t be as easily ignored.

This season wasn’t necessarily playoffs or bust, but there was a definite expectation of improvement. In the games we’ve seen so far, that hasn’t been delivered. Furthermore, there’s been little to suggest that the Giants will improve this season. Instead of finding a way to win, the Giants have found a way to lose in consecutive games. Against a defense that allowed 80 points in its first two games, the Giants only managed to score 14 despite this offseason’s focus on adding offensive weapons.

At some point, some of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of Joe Judge.

Failure to read the room

When the Giants were coached by Pat Shurmur, there were often press conferences that didn’t really say much. Many fans felt distant from both the staff and from Dave Gettleman’s front office, as if their public comments were just following a formula rather than addressing the real problems with the team.

Unfortunately, Judge’s press conferences are starting to feel the same way.

“A lot of things that we saw positive that we worked on throughout the week coming out of the Washington week showed up in the game in a positive way, but big picture-wise we’ve got to do a better job finishing the game – that’s coaching, that’s playing, that’s executing, that’s making sure we do what we have to do for 60 minutes,” Judge said after the Falcons loss.

Despite Judge seeing positives in every loss, the fans aren’t seeing things the same way. It’s clear that patience is running out and that insisting on positives even as the results get worse is starting to alienate many.

To put it plainly, when every outcome is described in the same way and the team consistently fails to improve at the execution that is frequently talked about, statements from the head coach begin to lose any meaning they may have had.

But that’s far from the largest problem.

What is Judge’s specialty?

The press conferences could be forgiven if the Giants were playing more like Judge advertised, but that’s been far from the case. This offseason, Judge put a big focus on discipline. It’s been one of the hallmarks of his coaching style, and the Giants fanbase was willing to defend him even as the national media criticized it.

However, it remains to be seen if that style will pay dividends or if it’s a case of smoke and mirrors.

The appeal of Judge as a head coach was that the Giants would take some of the best elements from the Patriots organization. They would play disciplined, and buy into a system that would let the players improve and win more games despite the roster lacking exceptional talent.

After three games, though, that isn’t coming true. There’s just been too many mistakes and errors this season to argue that the Giants are a disciplined team. And too many strange coaching decisions to believe Judge has a system worth buying into right now.

To put it simply, Judge hasn’t proven so far that he can excel in any major areas as a head coach. Instead, the fans have been sold an idea of a competent head coach and the actual on-the-field results haven’t manifested.

Some of it is directly on Judge. Things like the Giants’ fear of going for it on 4th down can be blamed directly on the head coach. Other matters fall on the coordinators. Jason Garrett takes much of the blame for the Giants having offensive struggles this season, but at some point, the responsibility of dealing with coordinators falls on the head coach.

Part of the reason for the Atlanta loss is the Giants discarding things that worked for them on offense against Washington. But even if Jason Garrett came up with that offensive gameplan, it still passed by the head coach and was approved by him.

Even if we look at Judge as more of an upper level manager rather than the kind of head coach who gets more directly involved in the tactical side of game planning, it’s hard to argue he’s done a good job in the role based on what we’ve seen through the first three weeks.

The Garrett problem has been a thorn in the Giants’ side for over a year at this point. More than enough time has passed for Judge to intervene, but it looks increasingly unlikely that anything like that will happen.

The verdict on Judge

Dave Gettleman is almost certainly out after this season as GM. The decision on whether to keep Judge or not will likely fall to the new GM, if the Giants do not clean house entirely and fire the entire staff.

In other words, this season is more or less an audition. While Judge showed in his first season that he has potential, a step forward is needed this year and it needs to come fast. While the Giants relied on a late season surge to finish with six wins last year, the baseline expectation has been that 2021 would be an improvement rather than just a repeat of the same thing.

If October passes by and the season still looks over, it seems unlikely that Judge will be retained by a future GM. If the Giants actually make progress as advertised during the offseason, Judge may just have a shot at sticking around for longer and winning with a better constructed roster.

New York Giants: Nick Gates injury could threaten career, says Joe Judge

New York Giants, Nick Gates

It’s still the early season, but it looks like the New York Giants already experienced their biggest injury of the year. That injury is the one that sidelined center Nick Gates, who was announced as a captain this season only to fracture his leg weeks later in the loss to Washington. Gates is obviously out for the season, but his future beyond this year remains an unknown.

That’s not something that head coach Joe Judge is willing to dance around and avoid. When asked about the injury by reporters, Judge couldn’t bring himself to deny the possibility of the injury threatening Gates’ career.

“I’d be lying, from my perspective, if I said no. I know there’s comparisons to other players, these things are all different. I know he’s going to have the best medical care possible… So we’re confident he’s going to be able to come back. My fear, for any guy who has something like this, is yes, it can be career-ending,” Judge said.

Gates underwent surgery the day after his injury, but that only marks the beginning of a long recovery process. It’s the next step in an up-and-down career that saw Gates enter the league as an undrafted free agent before becoming a solid starter in 2020 and a team captain in 2021.

This isn’t the first time Gates has dealt with injury problems. He spent his rookie season on the injured reserve, which is part of why his rise seemingly came out of nowhere after an uneventful start to his career. But his time on the injured reserve as a rookie wasn’t due to as major an injury as this.

Gates will have no shortage of encouragement from the fans and from teammates as he recovers from the worst Giants injury in recent memory, but at the end of the day, it’s impossible to put a date on when he could come back.

It’s too early to project that, and the only option for the Giants offensive line right now is to keep moving forward without knowing when one of their leaders could return to the mix.

New York Giants: Joe Judge stands by Daniel Jones amid rising pressure

new york giants, joe judge

This season, there’s no New York Giants player with more pressure than Daniel Jones. Patience is wearing thin in Jones’ third season in the league, and a week 1 loss where Jones fumbled the ball once and only managed one touchdown before garbage time has left many feeling restless in the wait for an improvement.

Despite the circumstances, the Giants organization has been nothing but supportive of Jones. That trend began this offseason when figures associated with the staff and front office repeatedly affirmed their faith in Jones, and has continued more recently with Joe Judge restating his confidence in the quarterback even after the recent loss.

The subject came up once again when Judge was asked if his experience being around Tom Brady in the Patriots organization has influenced his coaching of Jones.

Joe Judge stands by Daniel Jones’ preparation

“Obviously, we share experiences with all of our players from places we’ve been. You’ve got to use your experience with other players in terms of things that may have helped them along the way. I don’t try to live in the past. I don’t want to walk into anything and say, ‘this is how somebody else did it. You do it that way.’ You can’t emulate and imitate anybody,” Judge told reporters.

He would go on to praise Jones for the skills he’s worked to establish in his two seasons, including preparation.

“Daniel goes out there and practices hard every day. He goes out there and we have confidence in him because of the way he prepares on a weekly basis, doing everything it takes to be ready for the game… Do I walk in and I say, ‘Hey, I’ve had the opportunity to be around really good players at other positions. You should do it this way’? Absolutely not. Everyone’s a unique player.”

It’s clear the organization’s leaders have faith in Jones’ skills and his potential as a player, but that will become harder and harder to publicly justify if the performances don’t pick up.

Regardless of how well Jones prepares and how much he takes away from studying film, the loudest criticisms of his game have usually been about his decision making and failure to process the game fast enough.

With patience largely running out and some highly rated quarterbacks coming out of college in next year’s draft, the window for Jones to figure it out and justify the staff’s faith in him appears to be shrinking by the week. For now, the official lines are the same as always. But that might not be the case forever.

Giants News, 9/8: Injury update per Joe Judge, why starting Nate Solder is the right move

New York Giants, Nate Solder

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge is keeping injury news and updates under wraps ahead of Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Keeping all information a secret should give them a competitive advantage, forcing Denver to game plan for multiple players while the Giants continue to rehab some of their offensive stars, including Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay.

On Monday, Judge was a bit more honest regarding his injured players, hinting that the majority of them will be ready for the regular season.

“I’d say a number of these guys coming back right now, we’re optimistic about all of them, to be honest with you. We’ll see how they do throughout this week in practice,” Judge told reporters. “Saw a lot of guys make a lot of gains last week. There are a lot of guys that are getting reintroduced to the team that missed some time in training camp.”

If Big Blue has Golladay, Barkley, Kyle Rudolph, and Kadarius Toney available against the Broncos, their scheme should be far different than what we saw against the New England Patriots in the final preseason game. Ultimately, the utilization of pre-snap motion, vertical route concepts, and more creative playcalling should contribute toward a more explosive offense. Coordinator Jason Garrett has admitted that his unit needs to take a step forward in curating chunk plays and being more “explosive.”

However, the playcalling will only take the Giants so far, as the offensive line holds the keys to Daniel Jones being an effective quarterback and throwing the ball downfield. Allowing route concepts to develop, especially vertical ones heavily relies on the quarterback being safe in the pocket and having time to spare.

The Giants released their unofficial depth chart on Tuesday, and surprisingly, veteran Nate Solder was listed ahead of second-year player Matt Peart. Solder, who hasn’t played right tackle since his rookie season back in 2011, is expected to start at the spot against Denver. Ultimately, the Giants must consider Jones’s health and his future, which is why going with a more experienced player who can adapt appropriately makes sense.

Despite Solder being listed ahead of Peart, I do expect the Connecticut product to be rotated in, as the Giants try to force development for both players. It will take a few weeks for them to gain their footing, but in the meantime, protecting Jones needs to be the coaching staff’s top priority.

New York Giants: Daniel Jones will play first half in final preseason game

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants have kept Daniel Jones out of the preseason up to this point, but the coaching staff is changing tunes going into the final game. The decision is now that Jones will start, as part of an underlying shift for the third game to focus on regular season preparation instead of just evaluation.

This week we’ll treat more as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. My expectation at this point would be for Daniel to play at least the first half and we’ll decide on what we’re going to do in terms of coming out of halftime later in the week,” Joe Judge told reporters as part of a lengthy answer about Jones and the distribution of playing time at QB.

According to Judge, injury risk had nothing to do with keeping Jones out in the first two games. Instead, the Giants kept Jones out to give a chance for backup Mike Glennon to start. As Glennon is a new addition to the Giants from this offseason, these preseason games will be the only film the Giants get on the player working in their system for a while.

What does this mean for the Giants?

The Giants haven’t been a high scoring preseason team so far, but they haven’t been trying for the most part. The focus has been on individual performances rather than winning, which may change with the third game being treated more like a regular season rehearsal.

Jones will still be without some weapons such as Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, and Kenny Golladay, which might be a cause for concern as we have little idea how these players will mesh on the field together come the regular season. But despite that, this will be our first chance to see something resembling the team’s regular season offense before week 1.

After two games of poor showings due to playing backups, the expectations will be a bit higher in this final game but the Giants should in theory be equipped to handle it better. At least, they should be for the first half where Daniel Jones is set to make his mark.

New York Giants: Joe Judge undecided on starting lineup vs Browns

new york giants, joe judge

Fans of the New York Giants might be wondering if the team will play more starters against the Cleveland Browns in week 2 of the preseason, but that question will go unanswered for now. Head coach Joe Judge chose not to give a starting lineup, instead saying on Friday that he hasn’t decided on anyone just yet.

“I haven’t made a decision on anybody right now,” Judge told reporters. He went on to say that the Giants’ decision will involve cooperation with the Browns and their own head coach Kevin Stefanski.

“We’re going to see how we come out today and I’m going to talk with Kevin in terms of his plans. We’ve talked earlier in the week about what they’re intending to do and we’re going to see how that’s going to measure up and we’ll evaluate our team after today.”

It remains unclear if the Giants are going to start Daniel Jones in this second preseason game, but we do know that some key offensive players are already ruled out due to injury. These players include Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay, as well as first round draft pick Kadarius Toney.

Overall the Giants have focused on evaluation over giving playing time to their first team starters in the preseason so far. With a shortened preseason due to an extra regular season game being added under the current league rules, it’s very possible that the Giants only properly give their starters a chance in the last game or opt to not do so at all.

The Giants didn’t play a preseason at all last year due to it being cancelled under COVID-19 restrictions. Depending on what the team does, the starters may once again experience jumping directly from training camp to the regular season.

New York Giants likely to add more offensive line support in coming days

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants fell to the Jets in the first preseason game of the 2021 season, and they may have walked away with more negative than positive. With the team looking to find a healthy combination of offensive linemen, the unit struggled in multiple categories. Ranging from pass-blocking to run-blocking, only a few individual players looked the part, including Andrew Thomas and Will Hernandez.

The starters had their pros, but the second-string offensive lineman was a complete mess, as the Giants were forced to rely on Kenny Wiggins, former Detroit Lion, to supplement Shane Lemieux being inactive and Kyle Murphy leaving with an injury.

General manager Dave Gettleman promised the fixing of the OL years ago, but it has been several years, and the unit is still out of touch. Despite having tons of youth and potential talent, the team allowed their only above-average veteran in Kevin Zeitler to leave this past free agency. Getting rid of adequate veterans doesn’t seem like the most efficient move for a unit that ranked dead last in pass-blocking efficiency last season and is clearly weak in multiple spots.

Reapplying Zeitler’s funds toward a wide receiver is fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, if they can’t protect Daniel Jones in the pocket, the receiver becomes irrelevant.

Management does realize they have a weakness in the trenches and plan to acquire a few more linemen to compete.

With NFL teams required to cut their rosters to 53-men by August 31, we should see a flurry of moves in the coming days. The Giants can capitalize on a few surprise cuts, bringing in players for minimal salaries that can likely supplement deficiencies at specific positions.

With Zach Fulton and Joe Looney retiring, the Giants are lacking significant depth, but there are ways to supplement that issue, and taking from other teams will be a priority. The Giants have a few preseason games remaining and dual practices with the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, and while they will be scouting their own players, taking a look at some of their roster-bubble OL candidates might not be a bad idea.