TAMPA, Fla. — There were no platitudes this time. The usual postgame spin was there, but it was overwhelmed by a king-sized portion of candor. Joe Judge was blunt. He was frank. He was honest.
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.”
And that was just the overture.
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. It was clear that Judge was equally as baffled by what he saw from his offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, as any fan whose eyes glazed over watching this on TV. He was just as puzzled by some of the things he saw when the Giants had the ball as everyone else.
He was as disgusted as you that Kenny Golladay only got two looks. 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.
Time and again, he spared the rod with his players, and turned it on the coaching staff.
“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. You guys can write that tonight. I won’t debate that point.”
Here’s the thing, too: Judge was probably being kind. He was probably restrained. One more time Monday night, we were treated to an example of just how vast the chasm is between the Giants and true legitimacy. 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.
Against 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.
Against this team, the Daniel Jones Giants, the Tampa defense kept the Giants muffled and muted except for one second-quarter brain cramp when an interception set the Giants up with a short 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. When your big play is a tackle-eligible touchdown toss to Andrew Thomas? Not exactly the greatest show on turf.
Yes, the Giants may indeed have a soft home stretch, although it bears repeating, always: if the Giants think these next seven opponents are weak and vulnerable, what in the world do the opponents think about 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. Maybe it really was too much to ask the Giants to beat the Buccaneers on the road, in prime time, with Brady more than a little salty after those back-to-back losses to the Saints and the WFT.
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. But Judge, for now, will. Judge, for now, seems as tired as everyone else waiting on the Giants to locate their best selves. No platitudes this time. No attaboys. You get the feeling the plane ride home was a bit uncomfortable for the fellows on Judge’s staff.