On the morning of January 7th, 2020, it was announced that the New York Giants would be hiring New England Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge to be their head coach. Many wondered who this guy even was when the news first made its way to the public. Fast forward one year later, and Joe Judge is loved by basically every Giants fan. After a 6-10 season, the team is trending upwards for the first time in what seems like forever. Joe Judge is at the forefront of it all, leading this young Giants team in the right direction.
Assessing the First Year of Joe Judge as New York Giants Head Coach
Keeping Faith After Rough Start
The Giants had a good amount of buzz surrounding them before the season started. A new head coach in the New York media market will garner attention, both good and bad. Joe Judge was ridiculed for having his players and coaches run laps in practice after messing up, and practicing in the rain when they have an indoor facility as well. The media, especially in New York, will always use the smallest things to pick on a coach or player. This all proved to be beneficial for the players and was a big part of them buying into the culture.
“I think we have to buy into what Coach Judge has in store for us. If that’s what he has in store for us, running laps for mistakes, just don’t make mistakes. That’s a simple way to get out of doing that. But I’m embracing the change and I’m all for it,” said Sterling Shepard.
While this was all great to hear, the Giants did not start so great. They started the season 0-5 and later 1-7 after a Week 8 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. The Giants were sitting at the bottom of the NFC East halfway through the 2020 season, making things difficult moving forward.
Biggest Winning Streak in Four Years
No one will take a team seriously when they start 1-7. However, with the way the NFC East was at the time, the Giants technically were never out of the running for the division title. Since 2016, the Giants never really had a long sustaining winning streak. They rattled off two straight wins in 2018 and 2019, but that was it. Joe Judge led this team to a four-game winning streak, their longest since 2016.
Starting on November 8, the Fightin’ Joe Judges went on a tear, beating the Washington Football Team, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, and Seattle Seahawks. While many would argue the three wins against Washington, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati were not impressive, the upset win against Seattle really showed what this team was capable of.
Going into that game without Daniel Jones, the offense was already struggling and still did with Colt McCoy. Nonetheless, they did enough and let the defense work their magic to leave Seattle with a win, and likely ruined quarterback Russell Wilson‘s chances at winning MVP.
Breaking Divisional Losing Spells
The Giants, no matter how good or bad they are, usually always beat Washington once or twice. Unfortunately, before the 2020 season, the Giants had lost SEVEN straight games to the Eagles and SIX straight to the Dallas Cowboys. Fans have waited so long for a win against either of these teams, and Joe Judge helped deliver that wish.
In all honesty, Giants fans know they were maybe two or three plays away from sweeping both Dallas and Philadelphia. The good part about it all is that they did pull out one win against each of these teams, breaking free from the losing spells that have been there for more than three seasons.
A Disciplined Approach
Joe Judge had some obstacles to deal with during the season. Obviously, a mostly virtual off-season due to COVID-19 was the big one, but the way Judge handled his new team was quite impressive and shows that he is very serious about turning this team around.
In Week 6, news surfaced right before the game that Andrew Thomas would be benched for Matt Peart for the start of their matchup against Washington. Both Judge and Thomas later came out and said that the rookie tackle violated team rules for being late to a meeting. The message was clear to everyone at that point: do not mess with Joe Judge.
After their Week 8 loss to Tampa Bay, Golden Tate was seen saying, “Throw me the ball,” into the camera after his late-game touchdown. This led to Tate liking tweets saying that the team should cut him, and his wife going on a tirade over social media over Tate’s targets. All the unwanted attention was, well, unwanted by Joe Judge. Judge decided that Tate would not travel with the team to Washington the next week.
Tate later came out and apologized for his actions. Usually, an older, disgruntled receiver would try to force his way off of a losing team, especially after being told he would not travel with the team to a game. This showed that Judge has a real effect on his players, you are either all in or you can leave.
Joe Judge Heading Into His Second Year
While it was disappointing to see the Giants’ season end, they did not deserve to be in the playoffs at 6-10, according to Joe Judge. He is right, and this disappointment will only fuel these coaches and players heading into next year.
Judge has already been in the facility with Patrick Graham, looking at free agents and possible draft targets. This will be a pivotal offseason for the Giants, and they finally have the right coach to lead them to victory.