Not that you necessarily needed a reminder, but yet another member of the Bill Belichick coaching tree bites the dust. Former New England Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge has been fired by the New York Giants, ending his two-year run as the team’s head coach.
Without a doubt, the Giants thought they were being shrewd upon making this hire. They thought they were plucking one of the most important members of Belichick’s staff given how much he values a successful special teams unit (one that’s oddly taken a nosedive this season).
But, once again, like the many others who have come before him, Judge was unable to turn his opportunity into an actual tenure, let alone a notable one. He joins Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Bill O’Brien, Jim Schwartz, Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, and, most recently, Brian Flores (among a few others) as those who couldn’t last calling the shots for an NFL team.
Judge went 10-23 while overseeing the G-Men, with 2021 going so poorly that there was simply no other option for ownership. A “promising” 6-10 campaign last year had some Giants fans believing the turnaround was real. Then came a wasted 4-13 showing that, while heavily impacted by injuries, further peeled back the curtain on the goings on.
The Giants fired Joe Judge, and there’s no replicating the Patriots’ way.
The real culprit here is now-retired Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who quite possibly couldn’t have done a worse job with the resources he was given. Let’s take a quick look at his disastrous draft track record in New York:
- 2018: RB Saquon Barkley, No. 2 overall (with no offensive line intact)
- 2018: OL Will Hernandez, 2nd Round (bad pick)
- 2019: QB Daniel Jones, No. 6 overall (tremendous reach)
- 2019: CB DeAndre Baker, No. 30 overall (out of football)
- 2020: OL Andrew Thomas, No. 4 overall (very much not the best OL in the draft but the first taken)
And the jury’s still out on his 2021 selections. Also, these were only his top picks. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence at No. 16 overall in 2019 was good acquisition, but it’s very easy to argue why those listed above were either complete busts or not adequate enough. He also hardly hit on any pick beyond the second round.
Nonetheless, Judge was able to keep this team competitive throughout 2020 and they were in the playoff picture down to the final game of the season. Then, 2021 apparently broke him.
The crumbs were there. Judge’s try-hard introductory press conference where he exclaimed that the Giants were going to put a product on the field that the “people of this city and region are going to be proud of.” Not even close. Also … you’re not operating a division of the United States military? This is football. Let’s just have some fun, be competitive, and not be a disaster every week?
That philosophy actually worked in 2020, though! The Giants were a bad, bad team, but they didn’t lie down for you to take the victory and then laugh in their face. They lost four games by double-digits and the other six by a combined 18 points.
Then came 2021. TEN losses by double digits. Effectively ended the season starting 1-5 with unforgivable losses to the Washington Football Team and Atlanta Falcons. The Giants would improve to 4-7, and then promptly lose their final six games. All by double digits. And it had little to do with the starting quarterback being out for the season.
Every loss was more embarrassing than the last. Every failure was indicative of a team that simply didn’t grasp fundamentals or possess proper leadership. Judge’s supposed area of expertise, special teams, was a mediocre unit befallen by horrific mistakes. And this was all while the groans from fans were growing louder and getting worse. It was clear the noise was getting to him. It was evident when he’d ramble on for 10-plus minutes answering a single question during his media sessions. The last few weeks he said especially mind-numbing things, like how members of the coaching staff of Super Bowl Champion 2018 Patriots were “convinced” they were going to be fired halfway through the season.
Yup, Robert Kraft sure was going to fire Belichick when the Patriots (checks notes) were … 6-2 and on a five-game winning streak?
Then came the final nail in his coffin. In Week 18, against the division-rival Washington Football Team, the Giants were down just 3-0 with around five minutes left in the half. Backed up on their own three-yard line after an incomplete pass on first down, the offense ran two high-school-esque quarterback sneaks, waving the white flag and showing the opponent that they were scared of making a costly error so close to their own end zone. Washington would tack on another three points before the half because of the passiveness … and then go on to win 22-7.
Is that what Belichick would do? Ever? Would he even think about it? Or would he kick over his desk to prevent the thought from ever entering his mind? The Giants had nothing to lose and they were playing so conservatively that it undoubtedly affected the overall effort. That explains why they lost their last six games by a combined 107 points.
This isn’t to say Judge has no future left in football, it just goes to show Belichick is inimitable and nobody who gets promoted from his staff seems to understand that. Whether you’re trying to replicate his demeanor, utilize his schemes, employ his motivational tactics … it doesn’t matter. Only Belichick’s annoyingly hard-nosed press conferences are “on-brand” for him. His sideline mannerisms are who he is as a person. There’s no act. There’s no chip on the shoulder. There’s no desire to prove to anybody else he’s someone that he’s not.
Judge is the latest example of what happens when you’re trying to do all of the above. It might last for a moment in time, but it isn’t sustainable, and it all eventually comes crashing down because it’s disingenuous.