Joe Judge collateral damage of a flawed Giants franchise

The Giants failed Joe Judge in more ways than Joe Judge failed the Giants.

That Judge is gone, relegated to a few lines in the next team media guide, is a byproduct of the terrible hand he was dealt, even more so than the flaws exposed as a young, first-time head coach.

To be clear, there were shortcomings. Judge can be a bulldozer when it comes to smoothing things over. His working relationship with general manager Dave Gettleman has deteriorated over the course of the past season, a situation in which neither is flawless.

Judge didn’t help himself on several fronts during this dragging season’s trajectory, with him falling apart a bit when he needed to stay as solid as possible. When a still unproven man goes 4-13 in Year No. 2 and his team is outmatched 163-56 in a final run of six games (all without his starting quarterback, mind you), turning game days into torture sessions of three o’clock , there is no strong case for a year No. 3. But there is a case.

Judge’s perception and Judge’s reality are not one and the same. The harsh image of the unwarranted ‘Timmy Tough Nuts’ label doesn’t come close to who Judge is as a person and was as head coach.

He never tore in his players in public. Think he had some thoughts on the state of his offensive line that he was eager to share after one of those ridiculously weak offensive displays? There wasn’t a word from Judge, and those linemen knew he had their backs.

Judge was not a facsimile of Bill Belichick. He invited a small group of media members covering the Giants to an after-dinner meeting in his Cleveland hotel suite during joint training sessions with the Browns. Judge held ‘chalk talk’ media sessions in his own time at the team facility and took to the board to explain the intricacies of his offense and defense. He hosted a media dinner in Tucson while the Giants were practicing at the University of Arizona in December. That was far from Belichick-ian.

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge argues
Joe Judge didn’t get what he needed from the Giants to smell success.
Robert Sabo

It wasn’t Judge’s fault that he arrived when Gettleman was in the third year of a decision-making slide that largely weakened the roster. Some within the Giants will insinuate that Judge worked his players so hard that his team could never get healthy, which is why he ended up only having to train hard once a week. What is undeniable and needs to be investigated is why the return of the injured players often took longer than the expected recovery timeline.

Co-owner John Mara promised patience. The judge told him this was not a quick fix. Of course, it was difficult to accept some of Judge’s repeated assurances that progress was being made behind the scenes. Of course, his “a lot of things are going in the right direction” mantra after the 20-9 loss in Miami sounded delusional. But remember, Judge was told he would have time to build from the ground up and he was certainly led to believe that time would not be limited to a deadline of two years or else.

It wasn’t fair to throw Judge overboard after just two seasons, but it really wasn’t fair to the CEO’s search process to keep Judge and let that decision hang over the new man in charge of football operations. As usual, the well-being of the team outweighed the well-being of the individual, and Judge was the collateral damage.

New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge Walks With GM Dave Gettleman During Practice
Dave Gettleman’s salary cap management left Joe Judge and his staff too many holes to plug.
Corey Sipkin

Mara, with all this recent experience, should have the proper gait for his biannual routine of walking down the hall to fire the head coach. He said it was “heartbreaking” to tell Judge he was fired. Probably not so heartbreaking, though, since Judge was then forced to tell his wife, and especially their four children, that their two-year residency in New Jersey, after making new friends, had adapted to new schools and handed in their Patriots gear for all of them. Giants stuff was over and done.

Judge grinds his coaching staff and his players, and that can wear out. When the attack failed, he tried to keep his head above water by micromanaging that side of the ball, but there were too many holes to plug. The roster was bleeding and in need of reinforcements, but the Giants were so tight against the salary cap they couldn’t afford to call in help, leading to hopelessness among the coaching staff.

“Joe is a good guy,” said an assistant coach. “He handled it as best he could.”

Joe Judge was flawed, but not as flawed as what was happening around him. He was 38 years old when he was hired and 40 when he was told to leave. The Giants said they knew there would be growing pains, but they didn’t give him enough time to grow.


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