I've had my problems with Joe Judge as Giants head coach, especially this season. You all know the reasons why. Conservative, run-first offense in a passing-first modern NFL era. Seeming disdain for analytics. Poor clock and timeout management. Probably the reason we drafted someone for mostly special teams use rather than Trey Smith. And so on.
But objectively, how bad has Joe Judge been? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so they say. And the Giants have left a foul taste in their fans' mouths with an uninspiring 4-7 record after 6-10 last year. Surely we could have found someone who could have done better. And we have lots of examples, since new head coaches are always being hired in the NFL. How are those new head coaches doing? Here's a list.
Have to begin with Matt Rhule, he was the darling of last year's coaching searches and was supposedly a favorite for the Giants' opening until Carolina snatched him away with a 7-year, $60M offer. He has dramatically changed the fortunes of the Panthers: They were 5-11 the year before he arrived. Last year, they were...5-11. And this year: 5-7, and losers of 7 of their last 9 with Buffalo and 2 games against Tampa Bay still to come. He gave up lots of draft picks for Sam Darnold.
This year's darling is Brandon Staley, former defensive coordinator of the Rams and Vic Fangio 2-high safety look disciple. The media gushes over his every word at press conferences. Together with his golden boy QB, Justin Herbert, who makes Giants fans salivate, EDGE rusher extraordinaire Joey Bosa, and the #11 pick of Giants fans' dreams, OT Rashawn Slater, his Chargers are poised to take over the NFL. Their record? 6-5.
Kevin Stefanski, who resurrected a moribund Cleveland Browns franchise that was 6-10 under Freddie Kitchens and has them poised for a Super Bowl run? 6-6 this year after losing to the Ravens tonight.
Frank Reich, who has supposedly done a marvelous job with the Colts and has a great OL built through the draft, including the G Giants fans dream of in Quenton Nelson? 6-6.
Kyle Shanahan, offensive mastermind and almost-Super-Bowl-Champion (twice)? 6-6.
And then we have this year's rookie head coaches: Dan Campbell (0-10-1), David Culley (2-9), Urban Meyer (2-9), Robert Saleh (3-8), Nick Sirianni (5-7), Arthur Smith (5-6).
So where exactly are these great young head coaches the Giants could be doing better with instead? Here are some head coaches of the NFL teams with the best records: John Harbaugh, Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Mike Vrabel, Mike McCarthy. None of them exactly youngsters.
There are a few successful relatively young coaches: Kliff Kingsbury (who everyone thought was a terrible head coach until this year), Matt Lafleur (who inherited a slight advantage in Aaron Rodgers), Sean McVay (the poster child of wunderkinds who has now lost 3 in a row), Zac Taylor (another coach thought to be on the hot seat until this year), Sean McDermott (whose Bills were pre-season SB favorites but who are now not even in first place).
None of this goes to say that Joe Judge is a good head coach. I have my doubts that he is. But he hasn't lost the team, they are still playing hard for him. And he is one Dexter Lawrence offside and one dropped Adoree' Jackson INT away from having the Giants 6-5. If he's worse than these other coaches whose records are barely better than his, then the only explanation is that the Giants compensate for the bad coaching by having more talent than these other teams, which doesn't exactly fit the impression people have about the job Dave Gettleman has done.
I've got to give Joe Judge the benefit of the doubt for now.