Joe Judge said the other day, based on his conversations with members of the Giants roster in 2019, there were players who “tapped out.’’ Meaning they either quit or came close to it down the stretch of that season.
One of those players on that team said this is true.
“I can attest to that being here for a few years now,’’ safety Julian Love said Wednesday after surviving a four-hour, weather-induced traffic delay to get to practice.
And now, two years later, putting the finishing touches on another losing season?
“I think thankfully you’re not seeing that,’’ Love said. “You’re not seeing guys lose focus. You’re seeing guys be attentive to this game and just really giving it your best. It’s a prideful thing. You don’t want to just fold, so I think that’s what we are discussing.’’
Love was a rookie in 2019 and played in 15 games as the Giants went 4-12 to end Pat Shurmur’s two-year stay as head coach. Judge’s Giants are 4-12 leading into Sunday’s game against Washington in front of what figures to be little more than a friends-and-family gathering at MetLife Stadium.
Judge’s Giants are on a five-game losing streak, every game decided by 11 or more points. This, Love insists, is going to be different than what went down two years ago once the season ended.
“It’s not every guy, but you see those one-offs of some guys the very next day on a trip to a vacation spot and kind of just immediately getting out of the facility, getting out of New Jersey,’’ Love said.
This time around, Love said he is not in a hurry to leave the team behind.
“I think it’s partly because Joe kind of really wanted us to feel one with the community,’’ Love said. “I would say that I was a guy that a few days after I would close out everything, go back home. I’m hanging around Jersey a little bit this year because I just don’t want to come to grips with the end of this season, the end with my team. I know I can attest to all of the DBs and what we’re doing. We plan to see each other soon after the season ends and to kind of not just all go separate ways.’’
Shurmur, currently the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, did not agree with Judge’s assessment of how the Giants did or did not compete at the end of the 2019 season.
“I obviously — that’s not an accurate assessment,’’ Shurmur told reporters in Denver. “But beyond that, I have no comment.”
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams arrived at midseason in 2019 in a trade with the Jets. Williams said he was too preoccupied with the change of teams and learning a new defense and new teammates “that I didn’t really get a grasp on everything else around me in my environment.’’ He failed to make the playoffs in his four full seasons with the Jets and will end a season with the Giants a third time without an opportunity to play in his first postseason game.
If there is anyone who knows what it is like to end a season with a losing team, it is Williams.
“I’ve definitely been on teams before in general or I’ve been around guys in general, especially older vets like sometimes tap out when things start to get hard,’’ Williams said. “We pretty much know we’re not going to the playoffs now and a lot of people would be like, ‘We’re playing for nothing at this point,’ whereas guys are still breaking down the huddle today after practice and saying, ‘We’ve got one more opportunity.’ That’s what I love about this team is we see everything as an opportunity, and we want to take advantage of every opportunity we get.’’
This is all-too familiar for Williams, but not so for Judge. In his eight years in New England, the Patriots finished in first place in the AFC East every time. Advancing into the playoffs was a rite of winter for Judge. Even last season, the Giants were 5-10 but still alive to win the NFC East in the final week of the season.
This weekend, Judge for the first time in his NFL coaching career, will be part of a team that is eliminated before kickoff of the season finale.
“We always talk about playing every game, regardless of the situation or circumstance, playing every play, every series, every game the same way,’’ Judge said. “This is no different. I’m not going to be hypocritical in front of the team. I talk about playing every situation the same way with the same intensity, urgency and effort and then turn around at the end and say, ‘Well, this is just different.’ We’re only given 17 games a year, that’s all you’re given. You get 17 opportunities to go out there. You have to make the most of every opportunity. That’s what I expect of the team, that’s what I expect of the coaches.’’