I wanted to like Joe Judge. I really did.
After the Giants announced the hiring of Judge, I wrote No Confidence Giants Ownership Hired Right Head Coach in Joe Judge. In it, I wrote:
I don’t have any confidence the Giants got this hire right given every personnel, roster, draft and trade decision they have made over the last seven years. But I want them to be right. I want to have a Giants season last past September. I need them to be right.
But after his introductory press conference, I followed it up by writing Joe Judge Just Might Be What Giants Need. Judge looked and sounded like the exact type of coach any fan would want to lead their team, saying everything you want the head coach of the team you root for to say. Judge could have sold me a home in a flood zone in desperate need of a new roof, septic system and furnace at three times the asking price and I would have bought it with the way he talked that day. Looking back, he essentially did sell me that.
“What I’m about is an old-school physical mentality,” Judge said at his introductory press conference. “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.”
That statement was enough to make me a believer. To look past his lack of head coaching experience at any level. To forget that the decision makers who hired Judge were the same people who unnecessarily fired Tom Coughlin, hired Ben McAdoo, hired Dave Gettleman, hired Pat Shurmur and retained Gettleman for four seasons.
I have always been saddened that Kyle Chandler’s character Eric Taylor in Friday Night Lights isn’t an actual person and football coach, but at his introductory press conference, Judge appeared to be giving me the closest thing to making Coach Taylor come to life. Now a week shy of two years I wish Kyle Chandler were coaching the Giants. I wish anyone other than McAdoo or Shurmur were coaching the Giants.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about Judge. I should have stayed with my initial reaction to his hiring that Giants ownership couldn’t be trusted to get a head coach hiring right, considering Gettleman and his opposite Midas touch effect would be involved in the decision. After 32 games and a 10-22 record, Judge has been an extension of the McAdoo and Shurmur Giants, and with his weekly happy-go-lucky postgame press conferences following the dismantling of his team each Sunday, he’s quickly rising the power rankings of everything that been wrong with the organization for the last decade.
Judge’s most recent unintentional comedic postgame press conference helped him make an impressive jump up those rankings. On a day in which the Giants scored three points, lost by 26 points to a team whose coach is actually going to lose his job next week, turned the ball over four times and threw for an unfathomable negative-10 passing yards, the lowest point of the day for the Giants came after the team’s 12th loss of the season.
When asked why Giants fans should have faith in him as head coach, Judge went off on a tangent for more than 11 minutes reminiscent of Billy Madison’s comparison of The Puppy Who Lost His Way to the Industrial Revolution. In no way did Judge come close to answering the question.
He instead misremembered history, created his own history, spoke in general vagueness, told flat-out lies, curated fictional stories and even swore a couple of times. He said, “This ain’t some clown show organization” in describing a franchise that gone 61-99 over the last 10 seasons with one playoff appearance (a 25-point loss). He tried to use the recent sideline fight between Washington teammates as to why his Giants are in a good place and said the lack of golf bags present in the team’s locker room means the organization is headed in the right direction. The climax of his answer though came when he said impending free agents on the team come into his office “begging to come back’ and that former Giants making more money elsewhere call him multiple times a week to tell him they wish they were still Giants.
The entire rant was cringeworthy, and unfortunately for Judge, will likely follow him forever. It’s unlikely he will ever shed those 11 regrettable minutes since the only way to do that would be to become a successful NFL head coach and eventually lead a team to a championship. The Giants are as far away from being a championship team as they have ever been and Judge is as close to losing his job as he has ever been. And if he were to lose his job, it’s hard to envision another team taking a chance on him.
But Judge doesn’t view the 11-plus minutes heard around the world from Sunday as regrettable. A day after adding a new chapter to the embarrassing last decade of Giants football, Judge claimed he had no regrets about anything he said.
“Look, I was asked a specific question about what fans were asking and I responded to it,” Judge said. “People ask me a direct question, I give direct answers.”
Again, Judge was asked why fans should have faith in him. His answer was more than 11 minutes long and at no point did he answer the question. If you were going to illustrate how to not directly answer a question, Judge’s answer to the question he was asked on Sunday would be the golden example.
After having a day to sift through the bullshit Judge spewed in their presence in Chicago, the inevitable follow-up question to his claim that former Giants who “make more money” than they did or would with the Giants call him to tell him they miss playing for him was asked. Judge declined to specify names (because there aren’t any names).
“I know this is a place that players want to play,” Judge said. “It’s a place that a lot of players are going to want to play for a long time.”
Do players want to play for the Giants? Sure, if the money’s right. Sure, if they have no other offers. But if all things are equal and the Giants are going up against any other team in the league for a coveted free agent, what kind of idiot would choose to play for this team, with this roster, under this coach, front office and ownership?
“There are obviously some things that we have to do better,” Judge said after claiming the Giants, at 4-12, are a well-coached team. “I’m not going to sit here and hide behind anything. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re perfect or anything.”
If you were to listen to the 22 postgame press conferences given by Judge after Giants losses, you would think the Giants were on a 32-game winning streak under him. Nothing is ever bad, everything is part of the process and he and his team should only be measured on immeasurable metrics like culture and personal relationships and kindness.
“Obviously, the most important thing in this league is winning,” Judge said. “So we have to do a better job putting ourselves in a position to finalize and put ourselves in position to win.”
This was the first time as Giants head coach Judge has acknowledged that wins and losses are the determining factor of success in sports. So I’m relieved to know that he knows that the goal of the game is outscore the opponent and his job is to make sure his team outscores their opponent in the majority of their games.
But in a typical Judge-ian way, his answer leads you to believe he doesn’t fully understand or comprehend just how awful he has been at his job if wins are the “most important thing.” The second part of his answer would lead you to believe the Giants’ 12 losses in 16 games have been the product of bad breaks or late-game defeats. Nine of the Giants’ 12 losses have been by double digits. Outside of their Week 2 loss in Washington and Week 3 loss at home in Atlanta when they gave away those games, and their still-hard-to-understand three-point loss in Kansas City, the Giants have been run out of every building they have played in, including their own twice. Over the last five games without Daniel Jones, they are 0-5, having been outscored 141-49, losing on average by 18 points. It’s not like the Giants were a postseason team or even a respectable team with Jones either, as they were 4-7 with the “franchise” quarterback playing, and are 12-25 with him as a starter in three seasons.
Everything about the Giants is depressing. The roster is a perfect blend of overpaid, underachieving, oft-injured and untalented players. The general manager is a week away from being removed from a job he should have been removed from at least two years ago. And the head coach who was hired despite his inexperience has done nothing other than show his inexperience at every opportunity for two seasons.
Gettleman will be gone a week from now, and someone else will have the responsibility of trying to not screw up the Giants’ coveted situation of having two Top 8-ish picks in the 2022 draft. With Judge supposedly safe from the same fate as Gettleman, it means the team’s new general manager will have Judge forced on him the way Jones and Jason Garrett were forced on Judge. This likely means the new general manager will be a name promoted from within since no coveted outside candidate would sign up to be an ingredient in this recipe for disaster. The never-ending cycle created when Jerry Reese was retained and Coughlin wasn’t, which continued when Reese was fired and Gettleman was brought back will continue once again for the 2022 season. The Giants need to hit the reset button yet again, and that means giving the new general manager his choice at head coach and his choice at quarterback.
The Giants were losers under McAdoo. They were losers under Shurmur. They have been losers under Judge as he has failed on his promise to put a team on the field “the people of this city and region can be proud of.” And for that, he has earned the same fate (even if he won’t receive it) as his two predecessors: two seasons and done.