Joe Judge is facing his first crossroads as the first-year Giants head coach.
This week, he was hit with the second salvo that surely reminded him “So, this is what it’s like sitting behind the big desk.’’ Aldrick Rosas, the only kicker on the roster (for now), was arrested Monday morning in Chico, Calif., in an alleged hit-and-run, with a suspended license.
“Alcohol impairment is believed to be a factor in the collision,’’ the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.
This comes nearly five weeks after cornerback DeAndre Baker was arrested on armed robbery charges and aggravated assault stemming from an alleged incident in Miramar, Fla.
Soon enough, Judge is going to be the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to Baker and Rosas and he knows what he does will resonate throughout the building, whenever the players and coaches re-inhabit the team facility. Judge knows decisive action or inaction will be a message about who he is and what he believes in.
This is not about innocent until proven guilty. Both Baker and Rosas have that inalienable right. This is about what Judge wants on his team and for his team. Despite his youth, Judge, 38, gives off a no-nonsense demeanor and is passionate about creating something that lasts. Ownership has said it will be patient with him. If Judge does not want Baker or Rosas on the roster based on these alleged indiscretions, they will be gone.
Look back on what Judge said Jan. 9, the day he was introduced as the 19th head coach in franchise history. He was not interested in going into the details of how his interview went down, but he did reveal this:
“I would say when we spoke about discipline on the team, that’s something very important to me. I think you need to have the fundamental foundation of discipline on your team, that you hold players accountable. It’s important to have good people in your locker room. It’s a family business for our ownership and it’s a family business for myself. My children have all been born in this business. Knowing that your passion is football, that your desire to win is what you truly love and that benefits your family and you’re representing something bigger than yourself.’’
It was not merely lip service when Judge said every player from last year’s Giants has a clean slate. He investigated the roster and surely he knows all about Baker’s turbulent rookie year, the early attitude issues, the immaturity when it came to work ethic and attention to detail. Even if the charges against Baker are dropped, some image damage will remain. Judge will have to weigh that against the potential of a 2019 first-round draft pick at a critical position.
Players with Baker’s pedigree are often given multiple chances. Jettisoning Baker, 22, even if the case is dismissed would be a bold and telling move, one Judge would have to run past Dave Gettleman (the general manager who traded up to get Baker) as well as ownership.
Replacing Rosas, 25, would be a blow to those who grew to like the quiet, muscular kicker, but, in a football sense, it is as easy as signing another kicker or two to compete in training camp. It said something that Judge, with his extensive history in special teams, reviewed Rosas’ body of work and determined he would move forward with him. This incident, though, could make Rosas expendable.
This has been some indoctrination for Judge. With players he heretofore did not know scattered across the country, he is finishing up an all-remote offseason, trying to build a team via computer screens and Zoom chats. In a role where face-to-face is crucial, Judge’s link to the individuals who will make or break his success on the field was dependent on internet access and wireless connections.
There is no Joe Judge track record, but you get the impression he is not going to put up with much. That he will be firm, but fair, with an accent on the firm.
Judge is a family man, with a wife, two daughters and two sons. He understands what this first impression could mean to his future with the Giants. This might not bode well for those who fall short in the eyes of the new man in charge.