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With reports Joe Judge is staying, what would that mean for the Giants?

Let’s look at what might come next for the Giants if they are keeping Joe Judge as head coach beyond this season

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

After Joe Judge’s lengthy discourse Monday on the seemingly slow and excruciating build of a foundation for the New York Giants, he certainly sounded like a coach who believed he would be back in 2022 for a third season as the team’s head coach.

When his more than six-minute long speech about foundation building ended, Judge was asked if he had received any assurances from Giants’ co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch that he would indeed be back next season.

He didn’t want to touch the question. In fact, he said he would never touch the question.

“Let me make this really perfectly clear, my or anybody else’s hypothetical future, I’m never going to comment (on). Does everybody understand that? Point blank,” Judge said. “So, you can ask me about (defensive coordinator) Pat Graham, not going to answer you. You can ask me about (defensive backs coach) Jerome Henderson, not going to answer you. You can ask me about a number of coaches, I’m not going to answer. I’m not going to answer about myself either. I’m not going to speak on hypotheticals. I’m interested in building this team and moving forward.”

Later Monday, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reported that Judge’s job does indeed appear safe for next season. Vacchiano reported that Judge is “widely expected to be brought back for his third season with the Giants” and that “multiple team and league sources said the belief is Judge’s job is safe.”

Judge is 10-19 in 29 games as Giants’ head coach. The team is headed toward a fifth straight double-digit loss season, the last two of which will go on Judge’s ledger. Several of the losses this season, like Sunday’s against the Los Angeles Chargers, have been embarrassingly one-sided. Others, like those against the Washington Football Team and Kansas City Chiefs, have come because of breakdowns in discipline by players at crucial moments.

None of that has been a good look for the head coach.

Still, Mara has consistently been supportive of Judge. A source Vacchiano spoke to said that belief in the young head coach has not wavered.

“A few weeks ago I would’ve told you no chance he gets fired,” said one NFL source. “Now? Even after (the Giants’ 37-21 loss to the Chargers on Sunday), I’d probably still say ‘No chance.’ (Mara) loves Judge. He thinks he’s found his (Bill) Belichick or (Bill) Parcells. And there’s just no way he gives up on another coach this soon.”

Giants’ ownership fired Ben McAdoo in 2017 before he completed his second season. Mara and Tisch removed Pat Shurmur from the head-coaching chair after two failed seasons.

The Giants did an extremely un-Giant like thing when they hired Judge. They reached outside their comfort zone, doing something surprising. They hired a 38-year-old special teams coach who had never been a head coach at any level. Judge was thought to be a guy who would one day be a head coach, but no one outside the Giants’ orbit thought that time had already arrived.

The day Judge was introduced as head coach Mara promised that the Giants would be more patient with Judge than they had been with McAdoo or Shurmur.

“ ... the last two hires haven’t worked out. But I think that this guy is unique, and we’re going to have to prove it. We’re going to have to win their (the fans) trust back by winning games,” Mara said that day. “It’s up to us to show a little more patience with this coach than perhaps we have over the last few years because he is a first-time head coach. But I think he has everything that you need to be successful.”

They have not won those games yet. That has to be killing Mara, who obviously expected a step forward on the field when he spoke to media back in August.

“I certainly think we’re a lot better on paper. I’d like to see us win more games and make the playoffs,” he said at the time. “I want to see us make progress and become a winning team again. We’re overdue on that and we spent a lot of money in free agency. I think we’ve had a couple of really productive drafts, now it’s time to prove it on the field.”

Still, despite this season’s disappointment it appears that Giants’ ownership is prepared to fulfill that pledge to extend Judge more patience than they showed with McAdoo or Shurmur.

If the Giants do show that patience and bring Judge back for a third season, will it be rewarded? Let’s look at what history tells us.

Year 3 leap?

Can a head coach whose first two seasons were unsuccessful turn things around in his third season with a team and go on to have a successful tenure?

This is a question I was asked in a ‘Big Blue View Mailbag’ a few weeks ago.

The best recent example is Ron Rivera, who went 6-10 snd 7-9 in his first two seasons in Carolina, then 12-4 in his third season and 15-1 and to the Super Bowl two years after that. Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 and 7-9 his first two seasons in Dallas. In Cincinnati, Zac Taylor has the Bengals at 7-6 and in contention after seasons of 2-14 and 4-11-1. In Arizona, the Cardinals went 5-10-1 in Kliff Kingsbury’s first year, 8-8 in his second and are now 10-3.

Go way back and you find that some of the most successful coaches in NFL history fall into this category. Dick Vermeil was 4-10 and 5-9 in his first two years. His tenure in Philly turned out OK. Bill Walsh went 2-14 and 6-10 his first two season, then 13-3 and won a Super Bowl in his third. He is, of course, is one of the great coaches of all time.

The two most successful Giants coaches of the Super Bowl era, had things turned around on the field by Year 2. Tom Coughlin’s Giants were 6-10 in 2004, 11-5 in 2005. Bill Parcells went 3-12-1 in 1983. Over the next seven seasons, he won two Super Bowl titles and his only losing year was the 1987 strike season.

History, then, tells us that coaches who have not shown signs of on-field success by Year 2 CAN end up being successful. The odds, though, are against it.

The GM question

It is widely considered a fait accompli that Dave Gettleman’s unsuccessful four-year run as Giants’ general manager will come to an end after four more games. The Giants are 19-42, an untenable .311 winning percentage, during Gettleman’s tenure.

Then what?

The Giants appear to have three paths they could take. They could promote from within, giving the job to someone like assistant GM Kevin Abrams or a dark-horse candidate like senior personnel executive Kyle O’Brien. They could double down on Judge and the New England Patriots model by hiring someone steeped in the Patriot Way and who likely already has a working relationship with Judge. They could turn the screws on the coach by hiring someone outside the New England tree who is unfamiliar to Judge.

There is a fourth path, one that would cause revulsion in much of the fan base. If the Giants look at 2022 as one last chance for Judge to prove he is what Mara thinks he is, and they are happy with the way he and Gettleman operate together despite the on-field results, convince Gettleman to stay on for one final make-or-break season.

What should the Giants do? I have consistently advocated a thorough, wide-ranging search for a new GM should Gettleman indeed retire.

Dan Hatman, director of The Scouting Academy, tracks GM hirings and firings and probably knows the candidate pool better than anyone. Hatman is an advocate of pairing a coach and GM together in the same hiring cycle, hiring a GM and then s coach and letting them start their tenures together.

I have long believed the Giants missed an opportunity to do that in 2015. They removed Tom Coughlin as coach while keeping Jerry Reese as GM and Eli manning at quarterback. In my view, had the Giants made a clean sweep at that point chances are they would be in a better position today.

Hatman did a 10-year study of GM hirings and told me he found the only pairing of new GM/existing head coach that worked was Gettleman and Rivera with the Carolina Panthers. In each other case, Hatman found that the inherited coach was gone within 12 months of a new GM coming on board.

Final thoughts

I don’t know what the Giants will do. It certainly, though, seems to be trending in the direction of Judge staying and Gettleman going.

If that is indeed what happens, one thing is readily apparent heading into 2022. No matter who is in the GM chair on the second floor at 1925 Giants Drive in East Rutherford, Judge’s beloved process needs to produce on-field results next season.

Otherwise, the Giants will almost certainly have to find a new foundation-builder.