Why Giants need to keep Joe Judge for 2022 NFL season

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  • Joe Judge
    American football coach (born 1981)
313519280 061620 JOE JUDGE TREATED ART-V3
313519280 061620 JOE JUDGE TREATED ART-V3

For 11 long minutes on Sunday afternoon, Joe Judge delivered an impassioned defense of the job he’s done in his two years as head coach of the Giants. He made a case that things in the organization were far worse than anyone knew when he arrived, and that things are far better now than anyone can see.

It was hard to tell who he was trying to convince – his bosses, an angry fan base, or a skeptical media. Maybe the speech was for his players to keep the faith amidst a late-season death spiral. Or maybe he was just trying to convince himself.

But even though his screed was rambling, and clearly embellished in parts, Judge was absolutely correct about his overriding theme: Building a winning organization takes a lot more than most people realize.

That’s why Judge, despite his miserable, 10-22 record, deserves a little more time.

That’s counterintuitive to the tide rising against him from a fan base that has just had it with everyone after 10 years of mostly misery. The modern sports world is more about quick fixes and knee-jerk reactions these days. And in recent times, as they fired their previous two coaches after just two seasons, the Giants have obliged the mob.

But if John Mara and Steve Tisch bring Judge back for 2022 – as SNY reported last month they are widely expected to do, no matter who they hire as their new general manager – they will be doing the right thing. Judge may have said on Sunday that “I don't ever ask for patience from anybody,” but he still should get it.

Why? Because when the Giants owners hired Judge on Jan. 8, 2020, they weren’t delusional. They didn’t think they were two years away from restoring the franchise’s lost luster. And Mara even promised they were in it with Judge for the long haul, saying “It’s up to us to show a little more patience with this coach than perhaps we have over the last few years.”

That’s why it can’t matter how unbelievably embarrassing things have gotten over the past month or so – and even this decade of despair, this has been a low point for the franchise. And it can’t matter if a new GM comes in and wants to hire his own coach. Stability still matters. Patience is still a virtue. And it wouldn’t make any sense to have let Judge overhaul the Giants’ operation and change so much behind the scenes for two years, only to then turn it all over to somebody else.

At some point, you have to trust your process – as abhorrent as that cliché has become. And the Giants’ “process” led them to Judge. Yeah, it seemed a little impulsive at the time. He went from a candidate Mara didn’t know much about to the favorite to land the job based mostly on the strength of his first job interview. They were so impressed, they immediately plucked him from obscurity the minute Matt Rhule withdrew from the process and took a seven-year, $62 million deal in Carolina.

Were they wrong? Were they blinded by the way he looked and talked and acted like the coach they envisioned for their team? Maybe. But isn’t it too soon to know? Just one year ago, everyone seemed sold on Judge. He took over a bad team in the middle of a pandemic, was robbed of an entire offseason of on-field preparation and had no preseason games to soften his learning curve. Still, his team fought hard through an 0-5 start and went 6-5 the rest of the way – 5-3 in the second half -- to stay in the race in the awful NFC East. And they did that with Saquon Barkley lost in Week 2 and quarterback Daniel Jones missing two games and playing hurt down the stretch.

That was promising. It seemed to validate the Giants’ blind faith. Then this year was a disaster, but there were reasons for that. Barkley has been a shell of himself as he works his way back from a torn ACL and he missed four games with an injured ankle. Jones will miss the final six games of the season. Kenny Golladay, their $72 million receiver, has missed three games and has just 34 catches. Kadarius Toney, their first-round pick, has missed six. Sterling Shepard, maybe their most consistent receiver, will have missed 10.

Maybe a better coach would have found a way to keep the team competitive. Judge certainly doesn’t deserve any praise for the work he’s done. But how could he be fired for this failure, when almost everyone thinks the Giants’ problem is personnel – which is why their GM, Dave Gettleman, is about to be out of a job? If the problem is the quality of players, and the team is decimated by injuries, how can anyone put it all on the coach?

Granted, this isn’t a well-coached team at the moment. And Judge’s sermons about the culture he’s building are sure getting old. So is the toxic postgame positivity in postgame news conferences where he pretends everything’s coming up roses despite the fertilizer show everyone just saw.

But firing him would be as impulsive as when Mara fired Ben McAdoo (along with GM Jerry Reese) late in the 2017 season, less than a year after he led the Giants to an 11-5 record and what is now their only playoff berth in the last 10 years. Mara has since called that knee-jerk reaction a mistake. So of course he shouldn’t make a similar mistake again.

Look, no one knows if Judge can really make it as a head coach. He certainly has made some strange strategic decisions and had plenty of game management issues. And his record is what it is. Being 10-22 isn’t a strong argument for anyone to stick around.

But the Giants have been enough of a clown show lately. Firing a third straight coach after just two seasons on the job would basically be putting another oversized foot into the tiny car. Mara has said many times that he craves organizational stability. This would be the polar opposite. This would be cementing his franchise in complete disarray.

Teams should fire the coach when it’s obvious he can’t do the job, or when the players stop listening, or when they’ve had too many years and just couldn’t get it done. If they do it sooner, they better have an obviously superior option available – and the Giants don’t. So none of that seems to apply. Yes, Judge needs to make changes. He should overhaul his entire offensive staff, and someone should get in his ear about his post-game press conferences and long rants about how hard his team practices and how wonderful things are behind the scenes.

But when the Giants hired him two years ago, they really did commit to a long-term plan with him and they were right to do it.

And “long-term” should mean more than just two years.