New York Giants Sticking with Joe Judge Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJanuary 11, 2022

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge walks the sidelines during the first quarter against the Washington Football Team in an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Writer's Note: Apparently, John Mara and Steve Tisch read this article. Per ESPN's Jordan Ranaan, Judge was relieved of his duties as head coach Tuesday.

"[Co-owner] Steve [Tisch] and I both believe it is in the best interest of our franchise to move in another direction," Mara said in a statement. "We met with Joe yesterday afternoon to discuss the state of the team. I met again with Joe this afternoon, and it was during that conversation I informed Joe of our decision."

Disaster avoided.

Imagine, if you will, a symphony. There are some good performers in this symphony, but for the most part, since hiring a new conductor, the past two years have been a mess. The young violinist who was supposed to anchor the performance has disappointed. The triangle player makes $18 million per year to stand there and do nothing. The man who assembled the musicians just decided that retirement was a good idea.

Given all the struggles that symphony has undergone, one would think that perhaps a new conductor was a good idea. That is, unless you're the New York Giants.

After a miserable second season under head coach Joe Judge that concluded with a humiliating 22-7 loss to the Washington Football Team, rather than pulling the pin and blowing up the NFC East's worst team, the Giants are reportedly going to bring back Judge for a third season.

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

And in doing so, the G-Men are going to accomplish exactly one thing: Make a bad situation that much worse.

When Judge was hired, it was something of a surprise—he was a 39-year-old special teams coach who had never coordinated an offense or defense. But Giants CEO John Mara said at his introductory press conference he was confident New York had hired the right man to get the team back into the postseason:

"Joe has been a part of three Super Bowls with New England and two National Championships with Nick Saban at Alabama. What came through in the interview was his poise, his confidence, his leadership, his knowledge of the game, what it takes to build a winning program, his ability to relate to players, and then of course, his work ethic. He's a teacher, he's a communicator, he's somebody who demands and commands respect, and he just has a certain presence about him."

For his part, Judge said all the right things, too, speaking of bringing a non-nonsense, hard-nosed attitude to the Big Apple:

"What I'm about is an old-school physical mentality. We're going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of because this team will represent this area. We will play fast, we will play downhill, we will play aggressive. We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play every play like it has a history and a life of its own, with a relentless, competitive attitude. We will play fundamentally sound, we will not beat ourselves. That is our mission right here."

Then the actual games started.

Beginning with a 10-point loss to the Steelers in his coaching debut, the Giants proceeded to win once during Judge's first half-season as coach. That five of those losses were by single-digits offered a glimmer of hope. So did a 5-3 run over the second half of the 2020 season. But the NFL is a results-oriented business, and at season's end, the Giants were a 6-10 team that ranked last in the NFC in both scoring offense and total offense.

While speaking to Ed Valentine of Big Blue View last summer, Judge offered up many of the same types of banalities that he had the year before. It was about the process, the fundamentals. Building a winning culture. Insert cliche here.

"Year 2, the same fundamentals have to build a program. We still want a smart, tough, fundamentally sound football team that can play well under pressure. That’s what we’re trying to build, and we want that to be a consistent program, but the reality is you have to start over every year. You just have to. This year’s not the same as last year, this year’s team—including the players that were here last year—are not the same team."

By the summer, though, cracks were already appearing in that foundation Judge keeps going on about. Several veteran players retired during training camp, which some attributed to Judge's grueling practices. More than one ex-player wasn't at all shy about offering up scathing criticism of Judge's coaching style.

Geoff Schwartz @geoffschwartz

@MikeDeVito70 @JeffAllen71 @BigDuke50 Joe Looney gets signed in his first two practices he's got to run a lap for a mistake and then run sprints + pushups to end practice for a fight. Brutal

Former offensive lineman Shaun Smith went one farther. "He thinks he is [running] a college program or he thinks he is Bill Parcells," he tweeted. "Joe Judge hasn't won s--t. He's too worried about his hair and ego they are the new Pats."

Of course, there's a difference between Judge's Giants and the Patriots. The Patriots win.

In fairness to Judge, injuries played a part in New York's struggles this season—especially the loss of quarterback Daniel Jones. But it's not like the New York offense wasn't a dumpster fire with Jones at the helm. Over the course of a 2-6 start, the Giants scored over 24 points three times. Firing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett didn't magically fix everything. When Jones went down, the offense completely imploded. And by Week 17, Judge was offering up lengthy postgame diatribes about how by-golly his terrible football team was doing things the right way:

"This ain't a team that's having fistfights on the sidelines. This ain't some clown show organization or something else, OK? We're talking about the foundation built. The toughest thing to change in the team, the toughest team to change in the club is the way people think. You understand that? That's the toughest thing. You can get new players, you can have them in your damn locker room all you want. You have to change how people think. You change how they f--king—pardon my language—believe in what you're doing. They have to trust the process."

That was followed by a Week 18 beatdown at the hands of Washington (the aforementioned "clown show") in which Judge called successive quarterback sneaks on second-and-11 and third-and-nine in the third quarter of a three-point game.

Don't worry, though. He had a reason.

Giants Videos @SNYGiants

Joe Judge explains the two QB sneaks towards the end of the first half: "We were backed up, I wanted to get room" https://t.co/CjnPJVVlXN

It was an act of capitulation that would make Neville Chamberlain roll his eyes. An admission that his Giants could not compete in an NFL game.

And yet, after a 22-7 loss that dropped the Giants to 4-13 and tied for the most losses in the 97-year history of the franchise, Judge offered the same tired statements about foundation and framework and blah blah blah after the game.

"There's a number of things going in the right direction that we know that are foundational things. ... I know we're a whole lot closer [to] where we're going than further away," Judge said. "Last year there were a number of things that I learned of how to do on the job. Probably this year, some of the things I learned are a lot more of what not to do."

Judge is wrong. The Giants are a clown show. A laughingstock. New York once again fielded the NFC's worst offense in 2021. Only this year the defense backslid as well—from 12th in yards allowed in 2020 to 21st this year. Per Jason Lisk of Team Rankings, the Giants are only the second team since 1978 to lose each of their last six games by 11 or more points.

Hey! They're making history!

David Banks/Associated Press

This is a team that needs to be blown up. Jones isn't the long-term answer at quarterback. Saquon Barkley averaged 3.7 yards a carry and topped 100 yards on the ground once all season long. Kenny Golladay might be the worst free-agency boondoggle of the past decade. The offensive line is a nightmare. You can probably count the number of players on this roster worth retaining on both hands and have fingers left over.

With general manager Dave Gettleman (mercifully) gone, a new GM is all but certainly going to make sweeping personnel changes—changes that are desperately needed.

Keeping Judge around to run a slightly better Giants team into the ground the same way he ran this bad one into the MetLife Stadium turf is such a terrible idea that even Jacksonville wouldn't do it.

Judge has shown that he can run grueling practices. Has demonstrated that he can fling platitudes with the best of them. He is just the latest example that the fruit of the "Belichick tree" doesn't taste especially sweet once picked.

(Mike Vrabel played for Darth Hoodie, but he didn't coach under him).

And Sunday, Judge showed that he can wave a white flag in a game where his team has nothing to lose, because nothing says hard-nosed aggression like making room for a punt.

But hey, give Judge another season with another Giants team. Hell, give him two or three.

Maybe at some point he'll finally get the foundation laid.


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