INDIANAPOLIS — Since getting hired as head coach of the Giants, Joe Judge has yet to publicly utter the name Daniel Jones.
Not at his introductory press conference. Not in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl. And not here at the scouting combine.
Oh, by the way, Judge has also not allowed to pass through his lips the name Saquon Barkley or casually mention Sterling Shepard by name or allow anyone to hear him say the name Jabrill Peppers.
Get the feeling this is by design?
“I’m not trying to be a [jerk] with the way I answer certain questions,’’ Judge said Tuesday. “I want you to understand I’m always doing everything I can to protect the team. That’s important. I got to protect the players and I’ll take bullets for the coaches. I’m not going to hang anybody out to dry.’’
How would a harmless, “I’ve spoken with Daniel Jones and excited to work with him,” or “Saquon is a heck of a player’’ hang anybody out to dry, you might ask? Well, Judge came in and wanted to evaluate the players he will inherit. He has done that. But he is not interested in giving his evaluation of what his study revealed about certain individuals, even marquee players such as Jones and Barkley. If he mentions no one by name, no one can feel left out. Or everyone can feel left out.
“What have I given any other player that would make that person feel he’s been slighted?’’ Judge said.
There are those who would suggest Judge — and, a bit later in the day, general manager Dave Gettleman — not coming out and stating Jones is the starter in some way means the Giants are thinking about replacing their second-year quarterback. Consider this fantasy football. The Giants, Judge included, are all-in on Jones. Judge, though, is not going to say that, not now.
“He’ll understand over time how much we’re gonna support all the players,’’ Judge said of Jones. “They’ll all understand that.’’
Does this mean Judge is not committed to Jones?
“I never in any way, shape or form said that,’’ Judge said.
So, why not just say Jones is the starter to avoid any confusion (from those who for some reason are confused by this)?
“I understand and respect the outside perspective,’’ Judge said. “What’s important to me is the guys inside that building understand why I’m doing things and I have their best interest at heart. Over time they’ll understand that.’’
Judge went as far as to refer to the wall behind him as the Giants’ current depth chart: The wall was blank.
He is not going to award anyone anything just yet. That includes Jones and anyone else the new head coach will not identity by name.
“I’m not going to establish any status or hierarchy within the player or position groups by spending a month talking about individuals,” Judge said. “That’s important to me.”
Gettleman is fine with all this, and he acknowledged Judge is walking the talk when it comes to giving all players a clean slate. Gettleman, asked if Jones is the starting quarterback, said, “He finished the season as our starting quarterback.’’
And he will start this season as the starting quarterback. But not until Judge gets to do what he feels is the most important aspect to the coach-player relationship: actually coach them.
“I haven’t worked with these guys on the field yet,’’ Judge said. “That’s the ultimate test of how they really are within your program. Before I really have an expert view of what this is, I’ve got to coach the guy on the field first. I’ve got to know how he responds to me, how he responds to Jason [Garrett, offensive coordinator], how he responds to Pat [Graham, defensive coordinator]. I’ve got to know how they’re going to go out there and execute the schemes, how they can learn in the classroom and apply it on grass.
“There’s a lot of things we still have to find out about these guys. Look, it’s been six weeks since I’ve been on the job. Without having the players on a daily basis and getting to work with them on a daily basis there’s so much you’re going to really know these guys.’’
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