The decision to keep Joe Judge as head coach no longer appears clear cut — here is what I would like to see happen
After Sunday’s fifth straight double-digit loss by the New York Giants, this one a 29-3 beating by the almost equally as awful Chicago Bears, followed by Joe Judge’s meandering 11-minute post-game rant, I was sorely tempted to call for Judge to be fired as head coach of the Giants.
In writing my post-game ‘things I think’ column, I stopped just short of that. Here is what I did write:
“I think right now it’s hard to argue Judge, 10-22 in two years and with a mistake-prone team that has gotten embarrassed four weeks in a row, has shown basic head-coaching competence.
“The Giants might bring Judge back simply because they can’t stomach the thought of firing a third straight head coach after a two-year tenure. I think, though, it is impossible to argue that Judge has earned that privilege.”
I’m glad I didn’t write those words. That doesn’t mean I’m banging the table and leading the cheering section for Judge to get a third season as Giants’ head coach. As long as I have run this site I have had a long-standing policy of trying not to write anything rash, anything I couldn’t take back, in the immediate aftermath of a game or major event.
I prefer to clear my head, get away from the most recent thing I saw or felt, and think through what I actually want to say rather than let the emotion of the moment guide my finger tips across the keyboard.
I still think Judge is more likely than not to be back for his third season as Giants head coach. What should happen? How should it happen? Let’s talk about that.
I think I am going to land pretty much where the great Peter King did in his Monday ‘Football Morning in America’ column:
I think I’m re-thinking my categorical statement that Joe Judge should be back coaching the Giants next year. Just thinking … The Giants lost a serviceable quarterback, Daniel Jones, to a neck injury, and the loss of a serviceable quarterback should not turn your team to dung. Yet the Giants have lost five straight and looked horrible doing it. I felt the Giants simply had to stop turning over the coach or GM or both every other year. But I saw something Sunday that really bothered me: the screwed-up kickoff return in Chicago. Giants returner Pharoh Cooper waved everyone away near his goal line, let the kickoff bounce, and it didn’t bounce into the end zone—it bounced sideways. Panic ensued and the Giants had to hustle to recover it. The play is made worse by the fact that Judge is a veteran special-teams coach. John Mara has to give serious consideration to blowing it all up again. I’m not saying he absolutely should. I’m saying I now think everything is on the table about the Giants future.
I have said for weeks now that it has been apparent the decision the Giants want to make is to bring Judge back, to double down on him, to prove they are right that he will become the next Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick. All Judge needed to do in the final few weeks is show signs that he could make things better. Instead, things have gotten worse. Much worse.
I would absolutely understand if Giants ownership fires Judge after Sunday’s season finale against the Washington Football Team. Judge can talk all he wants about culture and behind the scenes progress, and we know he LOVES to do that, but Judge gets paid to win football games. The product he has been sending to the field not only has been unable to do that, but it increasingly looks like a rag-tag semi-pro outfit.
Following a first season that inspired hope, Judge’s second season has done nothing to inspire confidence from the outside that Judge has the answers to the myriad of things beyond the talent base that ail the Giants on the field.
The Cooper botch was just the latest, and maybe most egregious, example of the Giants looking undisciplined, unprepared and doing anything but paying attention to detail.
- They have 15 special teams penalties this season. The 140 yards given up in those penalties is fourth-most in the NFL.
- They have lost two games this season simply because defenders could not perform the basic act of making sure they stayed onside at critical moments.
- The Giants have been outscored 76-0 in the last two minutes of the first half this season, which means they have been both thoroughly outplayed and outcoached in those key moments.
- In a league where the margin between the best and worst teams is believed to be tiny, nine of the Giants’ 12 losses have been by double digits. Five of those have been by 20 points or more.
- They have failed to get any true production out of a quality wide receiver they paid $72 million for.
- In a passing league, they have come up with a laughable 98 total passing yards in the last two games.
If co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch were to look at the embarrassing way the Giants are playing week-in and week-out and conclude that they had to yet again search for a new head coach to try and reverse this decade-long mess I could support that.
Personally, I would feel bad about it. I like Judge and as former New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum alluded to when I spoke to him last week there is a possibility that Judge will one day be an outstanding, winning NFL head coach.
Personnel ultimately falls on the GM, but Judge cannot be completely absolved of the mess that the roster currently is. Not when he talks as often as he does about how part of his responsibility is to know players across the league and on the street, and not when he has talked so often about how good the working relationship between the front office and coaching staff has been.
Even if you want to use all of their injuries as a crutch, and that has obviously been a factor, it is hard to argue that the Giants are being competently coached on offense and special teams this season.
On the flip side of that, despite the miserable way this season is ending I could also understand if Mara and Tisch can’t bring themselves to fire a third straight head coach after just two seasons.
If the Giants don’t get off that merry-go-round, they are never going to emerge from the wilderness they have re-entered. Right now, they are stuck in a constant cycle of blowing up the roster and the coaching staff every two years and starting over. That ride has to stop if the Giants are going to be a relevant, competent NFL team again. The Giants have to push their chips to the center of the table and go all-in on someone.
Want to know what I would really like to see? After more than 1,000 words I guess it’s time I finally come right out and tell you.
What I would really like is for Mara and Tisch not to make the decision at all.
The biggest problem of the Dave Gettleman era as GM is that, in retrospect, Gettleman never should have been the GM in the first place. It appears that he got the job because the Giants were the only team in the league that would have given him a second chance at the job and to get it he told John Mara what he wanted to hear. That, of course he could build a winning team around Eli Manning.
Which, we know, he couldn’t. And which was a path the franchise is still paying for trying to follow.
What I want to see Mara and Tisch do is hire a GM without constraints or pre-conceived notions. Conduct a thorough search, which they obviously did not do the last time. Then, hire the person you believe to be the best, brightest, most qualified person for the job and let him decide.
Stay out of it. Hire someone to run the football operation and let him do that. If that person believes in Judge, fine. If that person wants to start over with a coach of his own choosing, fine. Half measures and hiring people who will tell you what you want to hear haven’t worked.
The Giants had pretty good success letting George Young and Ernie Accorsi do their jobs. Current ownership would be wise to remember that.