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“We will never do that as long as I’m the head coach of the New York Giants.” — Joe Judge on Doug Pederson on Monday night.
As an NFL player, all you ask for is fairness. An equal playing field. The opponent doing the right thing.
You push your body to the limits for your family, for your team, blood, sweat and/or tears shed on a weekly basis, getting out of bed is sometimes a chore, whatever you take for the pain inevitably wears off and then you are forced to fight through it.
You can hear your bones snap, crackle and pop.
But it’s all worth it. It’s the game you’ve loved since you were a boy, and the pay is pretty damn good.
Sometimes there are frightening moments, a blow to the brain can play havoc with your daily existence, your eyes tortured by the sensitivity to light, the headaches and the nausea refusing to stop.
And this COVID-19 season, man, this COVID-19 season was something else — the protocols, the testing, the masking, the social distancing, the contact tracing, the quarantining, the fear gripping you and your family. But there was a Super Bowl for you and your brothers to dream of, a playoff berth to chase, and so you kept your eyes on the prize.
As a rookie NFL coach, you cherish the opportunity, a dream job only 32 men hold at any given time. You learned so much from Nick Saban and then Bill Belichick, and now it was your show.
You inherited a flagship franchise that has fallen on hard times, that has forgotten how to win. So you started teaching them how to win. You weeded out the dead wood and you began building a culture that you know will work and you dove in the mud during a ball-security drill in training camp and you got to know what made each player tick and you were thrilled with the universal buy-in.
You took every precaution possible during the pandemic, for yourself, for your coaches, for your players, for your wife and children and dear Abby, your golden retriever. You left no stone unturned and you leaned on Ronnie Barnes, your esteemed trainer and director of medical services.
Adapt or die, you like to call the reality of the job, and hopefully and prayerfully not literally.
And all you ask for is fairness. An equal playing field. The opponent doing the right thing.
And you make no excuses, you accept the fact that your Giants had 16 opportunities to be a playoff team, and won only six of them, one too few as it turned out.
But you also know that Pederson yanking Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter and surrendering a chance to eliminate the Washington Football Team — which would have sent your Giants to the playoffs — is unacceptable, and unforgivable, in any season. But especially at the end of a pandemic season.
“One thing to keep in mind with this season is we had a lot of people opt-IN to this season,” Joe Judge said. “We had a lot of people opt-in … coaches, players, that includes family members as well.
“So, to look at a group of grown men who I ask to give me effort on a day-in, day-out basis, and to empty the tank, and then I can look them in the eye and ensure them that I’m always gonna do everything I can to put them in a competitive advantage and play them in position of strength …“To me, you don’t ever want to disrespect those players and their effort and disrespect the game.
“The sacrifices that they made to come into work every day and test before coming in … to sit in meetings spaced out, to wear masks, and have shields over those masks … to go through extensive protocols … to travel in unconventional ways … to get text messages at 6:30 in the morning telling ’em practice is gonna be canceled, we have to go a virtual day. … OK? To tell them, ‘Please don’t have your family over for Thanksgiving, please avoid Christmas gatherings. … We know it’s your wife’s birthday, let’s make sure we put that one off ’til the offseason.’
“There’s a number of sacrifices that have been made by all the players and coaches in this league. There’s a number of sacrifices that come along as well with the family members, the people connected with them.
“To disrespect the effort that everyone put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win.
“We will never do that as long as I’m the head coach of the New York Giants.”
He doesn’t deserve any medals for it. But good for the Giants hiring a man like this.