TAMPA, Fla. — There were no platitudes this time. Although the usual postgame spin was still there, it was overpowered by a large portion of candor. Joe Judge was honest. He was open and honest. He was sincere.
He was pissed.
“Generally speaking,” he said when the Buccaneers were done toying with his team on “Monday Night Football,” destroying the not-ready-for-prime-time-Giants 30-10, “we have to do everything better.”
That was the end of it.
Here was the good stuff: “As a player there’s some things I’d be frustrated about, too.”
Now, it doesn’t take a map, a compass and a flashlight to figure out what — or who — Judge was referring to. Judge seemed as confused as anyone who was watching the game on television by Jason Garrett’s offensive coordinator. Judge was as baffled as anyone by the Giants’ ball play as everyone else.
Kenny Golladay got only two glances from him, and he was just as disgruntled as you. He didn’t seem terribly pleased that on the last play of the competitive portion of this game — fourth-and-1, first possession of the third quarter, still trailing only 17-10 — Garrett honored Judge’s stout, and correct, choice to eschew a field goal by calling a roll-out that was doomed from the snap.
He spared his players the pain and instead turned the blame on the coaches.
“We’ve got to put our players in better position to make plays,” he said.
“I take this very personally,” he said.
“I told the players to show up Wednesday ready to go,” he said. “We’ll have a plan for them.”
Asked if he was sure he wanted to empty his gasoline tank on his staff — particularly one member of his staff, Judge said: “You can put that down. That can be done tonight by you guys. I won’t debate that point.”
Here’s the thing, too: Judge was probably being kind. He probably was restrained. We were again treated Monday night to an illustration of the vast gulf between Giants legitimacy and theirs. The Bucs, frankly, weren’t all that sharp. Against a different team they might’ve lost a third straight game, the first time that would’ve happened to their quarterback, Tom Brady, since 2002.
For this team?
Against this team, the Dave Gettleman Giants, they were plenty good enough to improve to 7-3 on the season, to recalibrate and reload and get back on track for an encore run at a second straight Super Bowl, to ransack Gettleman’s carefully constructed offensive line and riddle his prized defense.
The Tampa defense, against this team, Daniel Jones Giants kept the Giants muffled, muted, except for one third-quarter brain cramp that was caused by an interception which gave the Giants a small field. Otherwise Jones took another quantum step backward, tossing two inexplicable interceptions when he wasn’t guiding one pedestrian possession after another.
Against this team, the Jason Garrett Giants, their last real chance to keep things in the realm of the competitive died on that fourth-and-1 at the Tampa 25, and the Giants’ first chance to play a football game with much of the band back together fizzled. Andrew Thomas throws a touchdown that is tackle eligible. It’s not the most spectacular show on turf.
Although the Giants might have a soft home stretch it is possible that the Giants are not as vulnerable to their next seven rivals. But, this begs the question: What do these opponents think of the Giants?
And the prize isn’t supposed to be about squeaking into the playoffs anyway, not this far into the latest rebuild, not this deep into the Gettleman Era. It was perhaps too difficult to ask the Giants the victory over the Buccaneers in prime time. Brady has been feeling a bit salty from back-toback defeats to the Saints.
But it shouldn’t be such a yeoman task to stay in the game for longer than 2 ½ quarters. It shouldn’t be that the Peyton & Eli Show is the only thing keeping anyone interested by the fourth quarter. It really shouldn’t have been a frat party all night long at Raymond James Stadium except that it was, a 60-minute kegger for the locals to feel good about themselves.
“It’s on me to do better,” Jones insisted. “It’s on us to do better.”
Giants fans won’t argue that. Judge won’t argue that for now. Judge seems tired, just like everyone else who is waiting for the Giants’ best. This time, no platitudes. No attaboys. You get the feeling the plane ride home was a bit uncomfortable for the fellows on Judge’s staff.