Call him Joe Grudge.
That could be the new nickname for Joe Judge, the Giants’ first-year head coach, who continues to relegate veteran wider receiver Golden Tate to his doghouse in an effort to expel what he sees as the trait that could topple the foundation he is beginning to build: selfishness. On Saturday Judge and the Giants announced that Tate did not travel with the team to Washington for Sunday’s game at FedEx Field and that he would not be available to play.
It was the second time in four days that Tate was not included in team events as a form of discipline. On Wednesday, after what was described as a long conversation between the player and the coach, Tate was told to stay home and not participate in the team’s meetings or in that day’s walk-through practice.
The transgression that instigated this benching was Tate’s behavior on the field during Monday night’s loss to the Buccaneers. Tate, who has clearly grown frustrated with his role as the team’s No. 3 receiver behind Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, was targeted just three times in that game and six times in the past three. When he caught his first pass he shouted to the Giants’ bench that they should throw him the ball. When he caught a late touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to bring the Giants within two of the lead, he celebrated by yelling at the television cameras: “Throw me the ball!”
Tate’s wife, Elise, posted a lengthy diatribe on Instagram against the Giants for their underuse of her husband later that evening.
Judge made it clear during the week that Tate’s attitude was far from a misdemeanor in his mind.
“First off, it has to be team-first for everyone in this building,” Judge said Wednesday. “Every coach and every player. It has to be team-first. There are no exceptions for that. I’m not going to tolerate any kind of selfish behavior from anybody, a coach or a player. It’s not going to happen.”
At the time, Judge also promised it would be “business as usual” once Tate returned to the team on Thursday, but it has been anything but since. The 32-year-old receiver spent two practices lining up with scout teams while the starters prepared for the game against Washington. Judge said on Friday he and the coaching staff were still considering whether Tate would pay on Sunday. Then, on Saturday, the Giants announced this latest and most drastic aspect of the discipline.
Given the severity of the punishment, however, there was likely plenty of heated words exchanged during the chat between Tate and Judge on Wednesday morning.
The Giants hope Tate gets the message that selfishness will not be tolerated. More important to them, though, is that the rest of the roster learn that lesson too. The Giants signed Tate before the 2019 season, shortly after they traded Odell Beckham Jr., and he was supposed to be the Tylenol to that headache. They hoped the veteran could set an example for younger players on the team. This episode may be the most valuable lesson they learn from observing him.
The Giants did not add any wide receivers so they will go into the game with four: Shepard and Slayton along with rookie Austin Mack and C.J. Board in his first game back from a concussion.
Tate, who finds himself as one of the oldest players on a rebuilding team that is unlikely to be able to contend for championships before his playing days are over, most likely would prefer to be released. Tate liked a tweet that suggested he should be cut and given an opportunity to sign elsewhere this week.
That is how many players force their way off of teams in today’s NFL, by making themselves a social media nuisance and creating an untenable relationship. It happened twice already this season with the Jets, who dealt Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell to Super Bowl-caliber teams after their squeaky wheels became too much for the team to live with. The NFL’s trade deadline passed earlier this week without the Giants trading Tate, mostly because his age and contract (two and a half years remaining) were unattractive to buyers.
A source said the Giants have no intention of releasing Tate.
But on Sunday, they won’t play him either.