It is a quote that has been misattributed to Coach Charles Darwin that Joe Judge has been forced by the unforgiving COVID-19 virus to adopt now that his Giants have been punched in their noses for more than 60 minutes:
“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
Judge has long embraced this “adapt-or-die” mantra and he was exposing it again Thursday after learning that offensive coordinator and play-caller Jason Garrett was quarantined and before learning that lock-down cornerback James Bradberry would have to miss Sunday night’s critical prime-time showdown against Baker Mayfield and the Browns.
All this tumult comes during a week in which Judge doesn’t know whether Daniel Jones or Colt McCoy will be his starting quarterback, and now likely won’t know until Saturday morning.
Judge, aside from throwing a hamstrung Jones to the wolves last week, has passed virtually every test thrown his way as a precocious rookie head coach, but here comes Judgment Day — for him, for his coaching staff, for his team, which cannot afford to lose with the division title and the totally unexpected playoff berth that goes with it within reach.
“I think we always make it an emphasis on thriving on adversity,” Judge said.
He is one of 32 head coaches manifesting through the chaos and madness of this season without reason, and by all appearances, he is the right man at the right time for this franchise.
But Giants fans suddenly reduced to praying for a Miracle at MetLife will need Judge and his assistants to coach the game of their lives.
Judge had already been saddled with the monumental decision of whether a further-diminished Jones (left ankle, right hamstring) gives him a better chance to win than McCoy, a decision that hamstrung the offense in last week’s 26-7 sobering loss to the Cardinals. The Giants did not practice Thursday and again listed Jones as limited.
“I’d say, obviously with two injuries, it’s a little bit different situation than it was just last week,” Judge said.
It will be different for whichever quarterback gets the nod with tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens calling the plays. Kitchen called the plays last season for Mayfield as Browns head coach. When Kitchens assumed OC duties midway through the 2018 season, he and Mayfield clicked so well he was hired as HC in 2019. Then, his play-calling drew the ire of Browns fans.
“I’ve always respected how he’s able to look at a defense and understand their strengths and understand our players,” Judge said.
Then there is offensive line coach Dave Guglielmo, who in his fourth game replacing Marc Colombo needs to steady left tackle Andrew Thomas and flush all that ailed a unit that surrendered eight sacks against the Cardinals.
“It would be the equivalent of a plumber being called to a different company,” Guglielmo said last month.
On the other side of the ball, brainiac defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will have a showcase audition for a potential head-coaching job. How will he mix and match personnel to replace Bradberry, arguably his most indispensable player? The game plan was always going to be to stop the two-headed Nick Chubb-Kareem Hunt ground assault, and now Mayfield could have an opportunity to build off his fourth-quarter heroics against the Ravens and show he can be much more than a game manager. Graham, who has been a football Bobby Fischer-style grandmaster, will lean even more on safety Logan Ryan to be the secondary’s quarterback.
When Graham was hired, he said: “I want our toughness to jump off the film,” and no one doubts that his defensive line will be ready, willing and able to pass the toughness test the Browns will administer.
The offensively challenged Giants — only the Jets have scored fewer points — will need Graham’s defense to slow a Browns offense that has scored 83 points in its last two games, and will need to remember how to finish in the fourth quarter.
Special teams had been an eyesore over the past three games, and Judge and highly regarded special teams coach Thomas McGaughey desperately need them to rebound.
Judge was applauded for hiring a staff of experienced teachers.
“Teach me how to make a peanut butter [and] jelly sandwich. Teach me,” Judge said at his introductory press conference.
Colombo apparently threw the peanut butter and jelly sandwich at Judge. But the players were sorry to see him go. The Giants, until last week, had improved week by week.
This one is on Judge and the coaches.