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Bill Belichick asked Bill Parcells to do a favor for one of his Patriots assistants.
“He wanted me to talk to Joe Judge before his press conference,” Parcells told The Post on Wednesday.
That would be Judge’s first press conference as head coach of the Giants. Parcells did not want to share many specifics of a private conversation with a 38-year-old man who had never led a team on any level, but he did offer this: “I told him, ‘Don’t come in talking about the players.’ I said, ‘They’re going to ask you what you like about this guy or that guy, and you haven’t seen these players, so don’t talk about them.’ And he didn’t.”
In fact, Parcells reinforced what Judge was already thinking. Heap semi-educated praise on his new team? For the longest time the rookie coach wouldn’t even speak the names of Daniel Jones or Saquon Barkley or any Giant.
Nothing would be given for free in this Judge’s chambers.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2021, and Judge is on the phone with The Post saying how much he appreciates the support he’s received from Parcells and Tom Coughlin, and how much he wants to connect with the men who have won the franchise’s four Super Bowl titles. Judge had never met Coughlin before Eli Manning’s retirement announcement. He said the last coach to win it all with the Giants “has been tremendous to me … reaching out, offering advice and being a sounding board.”
“We talked about him possibly coming out as a guest captain for a game,” Judge said. “I’d love him to do the coin toss with our players.”
Asked about that possibility while he watched the horse races at his cherished Saratoga track, Parcells responded, “They wanted me to toss the coin for the first game [against Denver], but I told them I didn’t want to come for a [4:25] p.m. start. I wouldn’t get back to Saratoga until 10:30.”
“I’ll try to come once,” he said. “I’m a Giant.”
Joe Judge is a Giant, too, an odd thing to say about a Philly guy who was raised an Eagles fan and who spent his coaching days in Mississippi, Alabama, and New England. But Judge talks like someone who grew up in the shadow of Giants Stadium the way Parcells did. He’s forever going on about the need to field a physical, relentless, in-your-face team that represents the blue-collar people of the region.
He’s a legit tough-guy coach with a franchise that rarely does its best work with not-so-tough-guy coaches. (They know who they are.)
Belichick, a Giants assistant for a dozen years, actually kick-started Judge’s transition to proud resident of the greater metropolitan area.
“Every time [Belichick] told stories from his past,” Judge said, “he talked about New York differently than he did anywhere else. You can tell Coach had great passion, love, and appreciation from when he was here. It wasn’t interview preparation; we had much deeper conversations to get me ready for this job. We talked about how much this organization meant to him. The Giants and the history of the game are very important to him, and it’s something I share as well.”
Truth is, nobody knows what will become of Judge after his 6-10 start. Coughlin was 6-10 in his first Giants season and became an historic franchise figure. His successor, Ben McAdoo, started out 11-5 and got fired 12 games into his second year. Parcells was 3-12-1 in his Year 1, nearly got fired, and ended up heading to Canton on roller skates. Where Judge lands on the Big Blue board is anyone’s guess.
But during Judge’s candidacy to replace Pat Shurmur, Belichick had his reasons for telling Giants co-owner John Mara, “He’s better than the last two guys you hired.” Judge is not afraid of confrontation, whether it was assistant Marc Colombo (last year), tight end Kelvin Benjamin (last week), or the entire team (Tuesday), and his language can be more profane than two all-world cursers he grew up admiring, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Temple’s John Chaney.
He’s also not afraid of saying — as he did during his first day on the job — that it’s important to show human compassion to players, and that it’s a mistake to “think that in professional sports that paying a paycheck to somebody makes it absent of empathy.”
No, empathy didn’t have a place in Tuesday’s punishment for the full-pads, full-team brawl that sent Judge over the edge. But when he spoke Wednesday about the Giants champions he’s invited to camp, and invited to be omnipresent members of his program, Judge said he noticed they talked about those hard-driving Parcells/Coughlin methods “with a smile.”
The smiles on their faces are inspired by the rings on their fingers. Joe Judge won his job interview, and won his press conference, and won his audition as the tough guy most likely to honor the Parcells/Coughlin way.
Now he just needs to win a lot of games.
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