The Giants defeated Joe Judge more in the same way Joe Judge failed the Giants.
Those judges are gone, down to a few lines in the next Team Media Guide, a byproduct of the terrible hand he dealt with, more than the failures he exposed as a young, first-time head coach.
To be clear, there were failures. The judge can be a bulldozer when trying to make things easier. His relationship with General Manager Dave Gettleman has deteriorated over the course of the previous season, with no flaw in the situation.
The judge did not help himself on several fronts down the stretch of this care-down-road season, unwinding a bit when he needed to stay as tight as possible. The man who hasn’t been proven yet is Year No. Going 4-13 in 2, and his team outscoring 163-56 in the final six-game stretch (all without his starting quarterback, mind you), turning game days into three-hour torture periods, there’s no strong case for making a year’s number 3. But there is a case.
The perception of the judge and the reality of the judge is not the same. The harsh image fostered by the unfounded “Timmy Tough Nuts” label does not come close to the totality of what Judge is as a person and as a head coach.
He never ripped his players in public. Do you think he had some thoughts on the state of his offensive line that he was itching to share in one of the ridiculously weak offensive shows? There was no word from the judge, and those linemen knew they had their backs.
Judge Bill Belichick wasn’t fake. During his joint practice with the Browns, he invited a small group of media members who covered the Giants to a post-dinner meeting in their hotel suite in Cleveland. The judges, in their own time, held “chalk talk” media sessions at the team’s facility, going on board to explain the intricacies of their offense and defense. While the Giants were practicing at the University of Arizona in December, they hosted a media luncheon in Tucson. It was far from Belichick-Ian.
It was not the judge’s fault that Gettleman arrived when he was in the third year of the slide, which greatly weakened the roster. Some of the Giants’ inside judges worked so hard that their team could never be healthy, which is why they were forced to practice only one hard week. Why the return of injured players takes longer than expected recovery timeline is undeniable and should be investigated.
Co-owner John Mara promised patience. The judge said this was not a quick fix. Sure, it was tough to take the judge’s repeated assurances that progress was being made behind the scenes. To be sure, their “a lot of things are heading in the right direction” mantra after the 20-9 defeat in Miami is illusory. But, remember, the judges were told they would have time to build from the ground up, and they were certainly led to believe that time would not be restricted to two years or other deadlines.
It is not fair to reject a judge after only two seasons, but it is not fair to the general manager search process to retain the judge and hang on to the new person in charge of football operations. As usual, the goodness of the team outweighs the good of the individual and the judge is collateral damage.
Mara, with all this recent experience, should have the right gait for her every-two-year routine of walking down the aisle to dismiss the head coach. He told the jury that he was being fired was “squeezing the gut.” After making new friends, adjusting to new schools, and turning in their Patriots gear, the judges have to tell their wife, and especially their four children, that they will stay in New Jersey for two years. The things of all the giants are over and over.
The judges can grind their coaching staff and their players and wear it. As the offense established, he tried to keep things afloat by manipulating that side of the ball, but there were too many holes to plug. The roster was bleeding and needed reinforcements, but the Giants were so tight against the salary threshold that they couldn’t bring in any help, which led to frustration among the coaching staff.
“Joe’s a good dude,” said one assistant coach. “They handled it as well as they could.”
Joe was flawed by the judge, but not flawed by what was going on around him. He was 38 when he was hired and 40 years when he was told to leave. The Giants said they knew there were growing pains, but they didn’t give them enough time to grow up.