In a candid interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post, New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney took several not so subtle shots at former head coach Joe Judge and his coaching staff.
Let’s go through some of the comments. I will offer some thoughts as we go along.
On losing, and a losing mentality …
“I think that there was a lot of stuff that we were doing that wasn’t a winning mentality. And sometimes it was players, sometimes it was coaching. It was kind of a mixture of both. I hate losing. I refuse to accept that mentality, and I don’t accept it.”
Valentine’s View: To intimate that the coaching staff displayed a losing mentality is very damning, and comes from someone who played for Nick Saban and understands what winning looks like.
When I reflect back on Judge’s tenure, and I have spent a great deal of time doing so, I think there are obvious examples. Back-to-back quarterback sneaks from ‘victory’ formation. Judge’s conservative nature on fourth downs. Playing for a field goal rather than trying for a touchdown on the final possession of a 30-29 Week 2 loss to Washington. There are others. In retrospect, it often seemed like Judge played with an eye toward keeping scores respectable rather than winning games.
On the difference with Brian Daboll …
“Everything starts off with how you practice, man. I come from a place where practice makes perfect. I’ve lived and died by that. And I think how we practice has been great. A lot of guys are really bought into what we’re doing. When you have people bought in, people are gonna want to play for you and people are gonna want to go all out for you. If they ain’t feeling too good that day, they’re gonna want to go because they’re bought in because they believe in you because you lived by what you said, and not just saying it just to say. I think that we’ve all experienced that so far with the coaches that we have. They’ve been very true to what they’ve said. They haven’t lied about anything.”
Valentine’s View: There is a lot there to unpack, and a lot more to that quote I am leaving out. I don’t want to steal Serby’s work. I want you to go read it if you haven’t done so already.
Suffice it to say that by saying Daboll and his staff have not lied to players, McKinney is screaming that Judge and his staff did.
On the nature of practice with Daboll …
“They’ve done a great job of taking care of us. Dabes [head coach Brian Daboll] has done a great job of communicating with us. There were some days where he would come talk to me and be like: “How’s the defense feeling? Guys tired?” … There’s some things where it was like, “We’re sore.” He would make sure that he chopped some stuff down that we weren’t putting so much on our bodies. That really sunk in with us because it told us that he actually cared about how we felt. Because some coaches, they’ll ask you like, “Are you good?” And then you say, “Nah, not really,” and then we’ll do the same thing. So all right, why did you ask me if you weren’t gonna change anything? So like with him, he’ll ask, and he’ll actually stand true to that. When you give everybody your word and you actually live by it, that means a whole lot more when you don’t.”
Valentine’s View: That’s another loud and clear shot at Judge. There is more to this quote as well, with McKinney intimating that current practices are “night and day” more organized than under Judge. That’s another huge shot at a coach who often talked about teaching players to practice properly and was lauded for attention to detail.
On “disagreements” with the prior staff …
“I’ve dealt with stuff my last two years with the coaching and everything going on … I think a lot of times we weren’t seeing eye to eye on certain things. Last year, my first three or four games, I was barely playing. There were some games where I didn’t even play the whole first half. I think people forget that, too. It was a lot of different things, we had our disagreements time to time. I’m happy with our new staff, man, I’m happy with what they’re doing with us and how they’re communicating with us.”
Valentine’s View: In terms of “barely playing,” McKinney played only 55 percent of defensive snaps Week 2 vs. Washington. He played 95 percent Week 1 and 98 percent Week 3. The remainder of the season he never came off the field.
On defensive coordinator Wink Martindale …
“He’s an easy guy to talk to. What we love as a defense, we’re able to just go out there and be playmakers. We don’t have to worry about making a mistake on a third down or a fourth down or something like that. He just wants us to go out there and play, and I think that’s what we’ve missed obviously the past two years. Even though we were really good defensively, I think everybody could tell you on the defensive side everybody was so afraid of being the one to make the mistake instead of just actually going out there and playing.”
Valentine’s View: Patrick Graham was a terrific defensive coordinator. His defenses, though, relied a great deal on deception in the secondary and perfect execution rather than guys playing instinctively and reacting to what they saw.