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Giants hiring Joe Judge as head coach

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Well, there you have it

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
Joe Judge
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In a stunning and unexpected development, the New York Giants are reportedly hiring Joe Judge, New England Patriots special teams coach, to be their next head coach.

If Schefter is correct here, and there is no reason to doubt his reporting, the Giants would be the ones who didn’t wait for Matt Rhule rather than a situation where it initially seemed Rhule had jilted them.

Judge, 38, has worked under Bill Belichick in New England since 2012. He bagan as special teams assistant, became special teams coordinator in 2015 and added wide receivers coach to his duties in 2019.

Judge was considered a possibility for offensive coordinator in New England if Josh McDaniels got a head-coaching job or a possibility to go with McDaniels as offensive coordinator. Judge was also believed to be a candidate for the head-coaching job at Mississippi State, his alma mater.

When the news broke, Bernd Buchmasser of SB Nation’s Patriots site, Pats Pulpit, quickly messaged me with this comment — and I will even allow the curse word:

“I did not see this one coming. But that’s a no bullshit coach the Giants are getting, and an up-and-comer Belichick thinks highly of.”

Here is some of what Chris wrote on Monday in our in-depth look at Judge:

Judge, 38, is a career special teams coach, starting as an assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama from 2009 to 2011. He was then hired by Bill Belichick to be a special teams assistant in 2012 and eventually became the Patriots’ special teams coordinator in 2015.

Belichick, for one, believes Judge has what it takes to be a good head coach, saying, “Joe has done a great job of organizing that [special teams] as well as taking on some other things with the offense, in particular receivers, so he’s done a great job. He’s an excellent coach.”

And by all appearances, that isn’t simply empty rhetoric from Belichick. Judge was slated to follow Josh McDaniels to the Indianapolis Colts in 2018 before McDaniels backed out at the last minute. And, if he follows his previous pattern of grooming assistants with additional duties and promoting from within, Judge could be a candidate to replace McDaniels at offensive coordinator should McDaniels leave this cycle.

Being a special teams coach might even give Judge a unique preparation for the position that neither an offensive nor defensive specialist could claim. Special teams are both offensive and defensive in nature. In kick returns they rely on blocking and decisive running to generate “hidden” yardage for the offense, while coverage needs lane discipline and sound tackling to limit the yardage provided to opposing offenses. Special teams coaches have to deal with both offensive and defensive players, as running backs, receivers, defensive backs, and linebackers form the core of most special teams units. And finally, they only get one play, and it’s usually high-leverage, so they have to make it count and execute correctly the first time.

Here is a comment from quarterback guru Mark Schofield, an avid Patriots’ fan:

“From all reports Belichick has been grooming him to become a head coach. Has spent time with him on roster building, organization building and approach, and looking at the big picture of running a team.

“People might look to the struggles of the Patriots’ WRs this year and question this move, but he is really a special teams coordinator with a defensive background, and helping with the WRs was something he took on in the wake of Chad O’Shea’s departure.

“I think if you look at the success of their special teams units over his time in New England, that coupled with his “grooming” should help ease concerns a bit. That are perhaps still justified, of course. It’s his first head coaching gig, he’s young and this is new. But he’s learned under Belichick and Nick Saban, and he knows what it takes to win.”

“What might define the success or failure of this hire are the assistants he brings on. The OC and DC are going to be pivotal hires. Wade Phillips at DC? Does he bring O’Shea back as the OC? Those are big moves he needs to make.”