This is the way.
The Mandalorians never, ever take off their helmets. And Joe Judge never, ever criticizes his players in public — not even Evan Engram for his failure to secure a reception that would have secured a rare and cherished victory for the Giants. Instead, Thursday night became a familiar and repugnant defeat thrown onto a heaping pile of them.
The Way of the Mandalore is also the Way of Judge. Both are hunting — bounties for Din Djarin, NFL wins for Judge — and both are devotees of protecting fellow followers.
Even if they might be unworthy.
With the Giants leading the Eagles 21-16 at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night, what went down on third-and-7 from the Giants’ 47-yard line as the two-minute warning neared might have been viewed, in retrospect, as the signature throw of Daniel Jones’ early career, the coming-out-party of Jason Garrett’s run as offensive coordinator and the play that propelled Judge through his rookie season. When Engram broke free on the left side in Eagles territory, and Jones’ lob rose and then dropped out of the sky, the Giants were a catch away from victory. Instead, the ball slipped through Engram’s hands.
The Giants lost, 22-21, to fall to 1-6.
Former coach Tom Coughlin very likely would have been incredulous and, in animated fashion, urged Engram to “Catch the ball!’’ while using his arms and hands to pantomime an over-the-shoulder grab. Then he would have verbally patted Engram on the back rather than verbally shoving him under a bus.
Judge? Seldom (never) is heard a discouraging word.
“Everyone’s got their own style right there,’’ Judge said Friday. “To me, across the board it’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback for a lot of people. We expect our players to be able to perform in critical situations. Evan put us in position to be in that part of the game. We’ll address that internally on how we have to do things. However some other coach wants to handle that, that’s on them.’’
Engram might be back in 2021 or he might be gone. Many players on Judge’s first Giants roster will pass through, here today, gone tomorrow. Judge is in the first year of a five-year contract and will be around for a while. It’s important to decipher and analyze his style because it is the style that will permeate the entire operation.
Someday, if winning ever arrives again on the Giants’ doorstep, the seeds Judge is planting now will flourish and we will be able to look back and realize how it all sprouted. The way he handled his most agonizing loss yet — blowing a 21-10 lead in the final 6:17 — was revealing for what Judge said without saying it: We are not good enough to win right now.
There are code words and phrases and paragraphs that imply what will not be put out there for all to hear. If you listen closely, you can detect it.
Judge admitted his team is not good enough to win unless it does everything almost perfectly — which almost never happens, and which is why they almost never win. Judge did not come out and say it, and he has yet to offer up any excuses for losing six times in his seven games. But this is telling:
“We’ve played enough ball at this point and we should know what we have as a team,’’ Judge said early Friday morning, the ache and pain and stain of the collapse still raw and cold and gnawing. “We should understand how we have to play as a team. We know we have to be a team that’s got to grind out wins. We have to do things just a little bit tougher, and that’s alright. We’re OK with doing it that way.’’
This is how coaches talk when their roster is either limping, lacking, lousy or all of the above. “Grind out wins’’ is a way of saying, “We’re not talented enough to run and throw and tackle with any of the really skilled teams out there.’’ Stating, “We have to do things just a little bit tougher’’ is coach-speak, acknowledging there must be all sorts of scheming and planning and orchestrating to keep the team competitive.
There was no grinding out a win Thursday. Engram was not good enough.
“I’m not going to be a psychologist with him,” Judge said.
The Giants are not good enough. Judge did not have to say it for us to know it, as we are all getting to know him.