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Joe Judge appears safe as Giants’ head coach ... for now

The decision to keep him doesn’t seem official, but he hasn’t had to turn in his key card yet, either

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins
Joe Judge
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It appears that Joe Judge will return for a third season as head coach of the New York Giants. After a morning filled with uncertainty and conflicting reports as to whether or not Judge was meeting with co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, Judge appears to be safe. At least for now.

Judge is said to be conducting a previously scheduled end-of-season meeting with players today with an eye toward the 2022 season. That would not happen if he were being fired.

Multiple reports, though, indicate that while Judge remains the coach for now, his return for a third season is not set in stone.

There is this from NFL insider Mike Garafolo to consider, as well:

Judge is 10-23 in two seasons as Giants head coach.

The Giants began Judge’s rookie season 1-7, but a 5-3 second half that left them 6-10 and one game short of an NFC East title in a weak division brought optimism that the Giants would turn the corner.

Prior to the season co-owner John Mara had said that “It’s time for us to start winning more games” after four straight double-digit loss seasons.

Instead, the Giants are adding a fifth straight and Sunday’s loss tied their franchise record for single-season futility as they ended 4-13, tying the 2017 Giants for most losses in a season.

The Giants began the season 0-3 and have ended it by losing six straight games and seven of eight. At midseason it seemed impossible that Judge would lose his job, especially after the Giants went 4-4 over an eight-game stretch. Then, quarterback Daniel Jones got hurt, the product on the field became non-competitive and Judge embarrassed himself and the organization with a couple of his press conference performances.

Judge promised at his introductory press conference that “I’m going to make sure we are fundamentally sound, we are situationally aware and that we play with relentless effort.”

The Giants ended the season with a whimper. They lost to the Chicago Bears and Washington Football Team, both also double-digit loss teams, by a combined score of 51-10.

Another thing Judge promised the day he was introduced was that “We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play every play like it has a history and a life of its own, with a relentless, competitive attitude.”

Sunday, Judge threw up the white flag in the second quarter, calling for back-to-back quarterback sneaks from inside his own 5-yard line simply because he didn’t trust his team. Relentless? That’s relenting.

“I wasn’t going to live through what happened last week in Chicago (when the Giants gave up a safety in that same situation), so we’re going to give ourselves room for the punt,” Judge explained.

Unlike near the end of the tenures of Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur as Giants head coaches, player effort has never appeared to be an issue under Judge. Players have also steadfastly continued to support the coach. There was a report from Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, however, that Judge was losing support in the locker room.

Outwardly, players continued to show belief in the coach on Sunday night.

“I’ve been a part of teams that haven’t fought as hard as we do, haven’t practiced as hard as we do every day. We practice hard. We fight for each other. Judge squeezes it out of us every day. It’s not acceptable for us to come in and hang our heads,” said Lorenzo Carter. “We come in every day, every week, no matter what and we work hard at it, and I appreciate that. That’s what it takes to win. I know the results haven’t been there, but I think we’ve got the right guys in the locker room. We’ve got the right mindset.”

The areas of being fundamentally sound and situationally aware, however, are ones in which the Giants appear to have come up woefully short in 2021.

The Giants lost two games this season largely because defensive players jumped offside at critical moments. They had an embarrassing situation in Week 17 where kickoff returner Pharoh Cooper, thinking the ball was headed for a touchback, had to scramble to pick the ball up when it landed at the 3-yard line.

Through a combination of poor play and game mismanagement, the Giants were outscored 79-0 in the final two minutes of the first half this season.

Judge has made a habit in his two-year tenure of emphasizing process over results, of taking the long view that steps are being taken that will lead to sustained success regardless of the short-term results. In separate recent press conferences, Judge gave a six-minute answer on why be believes the foundation is being built correctly and an 11-minute answer on why he believes he can get the long-struggling Giants turned around.

In that six-minute answer, Judge spoke about the need for time:

“You have to get these young players developing, you have to make sure the older players continue to make an impact, you have to make sure you put each of your players in positions to have success, but getting the right kind of guys in the building – that’s physically as players to fit your system, that’s the right kind of character and culture that you have to have going forward – those are key things that you have to do ... It’s not simple. It’s not fantasy football, you don’t come on in, you don’t select a couple players in the draft and sign someone in free agency and say, ‘Every problem is solved.’ You’ve got to come in and put all the pieces in place over time.”

In his 11-minute answer, he said a lot of things — including some that were taken as shots at other teams or coaches. Again, though, what that soliloquy amounted to was a plea for time, a statement that he believed behind-the-scenes improvements would eventually turn to on-the-field results.

“There’s a number of things going in the right direction that we know that are foundational things ... “I know we’re a whole lot closer [to] where we’re going than further away.”

Judge said Sunday that he was “immediately” going to start working on fixing what went wrong.

“Last year there were a number of things that I learned of how to do on the job,” Judge said. “Probably this year, some of the things I learned are a lot more of what not to do.

“There’s also a number of things I’ve learned of that will never happen again. There’s a list of things that are just tattooed. You touch a hot plate, you learn it’s hot. You’re not going to touch that thing again. There’s a number of things that I’ve gotten from this year that I absolutely understand. Sometimes, the more valuable lesson is you learn what you can’t do again or what you can’t allow to happen again.”

Mara had said before the 2021 season began that ownership was convinced it had the “right guy” installed as the head coach.

“He exudes confidence, but his attention to detail and the way the players respond to him I think is something that adds to my level of confidence, as well. He demonstrates leadership. He demonstrates – he sees the big picture,” Mara said. “He has an appreciation, strong appreciation for the history of this franchise. That’s why you see the former players coming back all the time that he’s invited. I’m convinced that we have the right guy at the helm.”

Whether they do or not, remains a valid question. For the time being, though, it looks like Judge might get a third chance to prove the Giants right.