Joe Judge was given two days to try and defend two bad seasons.
In the end, he couldn’t. Who can?
The Giants announced on Tuesday that Judge had been relieved of his duties as head coach, ending a two-year period that began with a promise to return to the franchise’s glory days but ended up in what looks like days of deep despair.
Judge went 10-23 in the two seasons, but it was the last month or so of inept performances that made it impossible for the Giants to keep him. They lost their last six games of the season, each by double margins, with increasingly poor play that pushed the monarchy beyond their patience.
“I said before the season started that I wanted to feel good about the direction we were headed when we played our last game of the season,” co-owner Jon Mara said in an announcement Tuesday night. “Unfortunately, I cannot make that statement, which is why we made this decision.”
The shooting came a day after the team announced the retirement of general manager Dave Gittleman. It left the organization’s two most important leadership positions vacant, giving the fans of a team that had been crying out for an overhaul of the organization what they wanted: a fresh start in rebuilding and a complete accomplishment.
“We appreciate Joe’s efforts on behalf of the organization,” said Mara.
Angry fans who have long been angered by the judge’s failures undoubtedly valued his dismissal more than his efforts. Many saw this as a promising sign that the property was aware of the state of the franchise and was willing to try great strides to renovate it rather than fix the children through in-house solutions that had become insanely routine.
The Giants are set to begin interviewing general manager candidates — none of whom have worked in their front office, which is a rarity for the organization — Wednesday morning, and Mara said whoever they hire will “lead the effort to hire a new chief athletic coach.”
All eight known candidates for the General Manager position come from teams that are now gearing up for the post-season, so the time isn’t critical to looking for coaching; If anyone has to bring in an assistant coach or coordinator from their current organization, this hiring cannot take place until that team is disqualified from the playoffs anyway.
The Giants’ failures preceded the judge’s arrival in 2020. It was a decade of disappointment for a team that hadn’t won a post-season game since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012 and had been a playoff only once in that span. Judge becomes the third coach in a row to be fired by the Giants after two seasons (or even less), following the quick departure of Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmore.
Like these dismissals, judges can be linked in part to a lack of winning staff. The Giants have not won a game after linebacker Daniel Jones’ season ended with a neck injury in late November, and the team has rarely had all the attacking playmakers on the field at the same time.
Judge has coached a few games with Saquon Barkley at full power. Running ruptured his ACL in the second week of the 2020 season and he has spent most of this year recovering from that and a subsequent ankle injury. The offensive line that the giants envisioned for the 2021 season never materialized, and the team played most of its matches with backup, third and fourth on the field.
But even beyond those handicaps on the list, Judge has done himself no favors.
His tenure was punctuated by some silly moments in her final days that would join other peers in the team’s futility. There was the skewed 11-minute speech after the Week 17 loss to the Bears in which he described the changes in team culture that took place behind the scenes. In the week 18 home loss to Washington, with the Giants close to their goal line, a pair of offside called quarterbacks to create space to throw the ball. These will stand alongside moments of shame and irony such as Joe Pisarcik’s The Fumble in 1978 and Ray Handley’s hostile press conferences.
After 2020 and coming back to 2021, Mara is confident he has hired the right man for the job at Judge. These feelings deteriorated astonishingly fast.
It was a quick meltdown for Judge, who looked lately late this season on the cusp of a comeback. Upon appointing the judge, Mara said he wanted to show him more patience than had been given to his predecessors, and there were indications that the judge might exercise authority in the team’s general manager search.
Unlike other teams that missed the playoffs and fired their coaches on Monday, the Giants wanted to give Judge a chance to present his side of the fall this year and also outline potential changes he envisioned on the team, focusing on the excitement of the offense was one of the worst offenses in the NFL. They even let him address the team before the players leave for the off-season on Monday afternoon, a meeting that included sharing some of his plans for 2022 and beyond.
Mara and fellow co-owner Steve Tisch met in person with the judge later on Monday afternoon. Mara and Judge met again on Tuesday before informing the judge of the decision and the Giants began what would be their last attempt to return to success.
Worst coach winning percentages in Giants history:
Bill Arnsberger (1974-76) 7-28 .200
Pat Shurmore (2018-19) 9-23 .281
Joe Judge (2020-21) 10-23 .303
*Steve Spagnolo 1-3 (.250) was interim coach in 2017.