Alabama’s Nick Saban believes coach Joe Judge and safety Xavier McKinney are equipped for success and will serve the New York Giants well.
Before becoming a three-time Super Bowl champion under Bill Belichick in New England, current New York Giants head coach Joe Judge was winning a pair of national championships at Alabama under Nick Saban.
That pedigree should serve Judge well, but don’t compare him to Belichick or Saban.
Judge has made it very clear he’ll be his own man in the NFL, and Saban believes it’s only fair to allow the first-year coach to carve his own path.
“I don’t think it’s really fair that when you have former assistants on your staff they get compared to their mentors because we all have different situations,” Saban told Giants.com. “We’ve had the chance to establish our program, establish our team, get the kind of players that we wanted. When you come into a new situation, you’ve got to, number one, be yourself, be who you are. Don’t try to be somebody else and do things the way you want to do them and get the kind of players that you want. It takes some time to build that.
“I don’t fully know the Giants situation – when we’re in college, we don’t get to see the NFL games all the time on Sunday because we work – but I know Joe will do a really good job of doing that. But I think that’s the most important thing. Don’t try to be like somebody else. Be who you are.”
Saban also believes that Judge’s time in Tuscaloosa will serve him well in the NFL, and that it’s little surprise his career has taken this sort of trajectory.
“When Joe was here, he was a young guy, very bright, enthusiastic, great teacher, really good relationships with the players, had lots of leadership qualities about him because of the example that he set and the energy and the enthusiasm he had on a daily basis,” Saban said. “And he was really smart. He had a good understanding of football. So no surprise to me that Joe has gotten to this point in his career, and we certainly wish him well. He did a fantastic job here for us.”
One thing that will benefit Judge as a first-year head coach is the addition of safety Xavier McKinney, another Alabama product Saban expects to excel in the NFL.
“I think Xavier has a lot of diversity as a player,” Saban said. “He can play man-to-man, he’s got pretty good ball judgment, he’s a good tackler, he’s got a lot of toughness, he’s a very instinctive and effective blitzer. He’s got some burst and acceleration to come off the edge or blitz up the middle and he’s got enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to. So he can do just about all the critical factors in terms of what we look for in a safety here. As he got experience, he was smart enough to be able to play multiple positions.
“I think the guy’s got some dog in him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a playmaker. We have a production point system here that we use, and he was always high on that board because he forces fumbles, shows up in the right place, does a good job of executing. He’s instinctive, he’s a quick reactor, he’s got a burst. He can be a knock-back tackler. So he’s always been a real playmaker for us and it comes in a lot of different ways, but that’s probably his greatest strength – his production.”
If Judge and McKinney can bring even a small sliver of Alabama’s success to East Rutherford, Giants Nation is in excellent hands.