In a surprising move, the New York Giants fired head coach Joe Judge on January 11th, 2022 after two seasons. His combined record came out to 10-23. His firing came a day after the retirement of general manager Dave Gettleman was announced. Ownership met with Judge a few times after Sunday before they let him go on Tuesday. Many believe Judge was put into a bad situation. His offensive coordinator for a year and a half was forced on him as he was working with an older general manager. However, Judge’s flaws as head coach could not go unchecked any longer. The Giants firing of Judge was the correct judgement; here are three reasons why:
Why Firing Joe Judge Was The Right Judgement
For the past two years, there has been debate on whether John Mara forced Joe Judge to hire Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator in 2020. While the defense overachieved in 2020, the offense ranked among the worst in the league. The Giants ran the ball at an average efficiency down the stretch in 2020.
However, the passing offense remained one of the worst as Daniel Jones averaged 240 yards per game. This was due to the ageing philosophy of Garrett’s conservative play calling as well as a bad offensive line, lack of weapons, and no Saquon Barkley.
Despite reports coming out recently that Judge wanted Garrett fired as early as November 2020, he moved on with his incumbent offensive coordinator into the next season.
The organization signed and drafted many offensive weapons, while the team elected not to invest in the offensive line. After a decent start, the offense plunged due to injuries, bad quarterback play, and, again, Garrett’s play calling.
Judge elected to cut ties with Garrett after the Week 11 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Freddie Kitchens took over as the interim offensive coordinator and the offense plunged even more. The Giants averaged 18.2 points per game under Garrett in ten games and 9.8 points per game under Kitchens.
To be fair, the Giants played Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm six of those seven games. However, Kitchens should have been innovative to a certain extent. Glennon put up career-worst numbers in 2021 with the Giants and that says something for a veteran backup. Also to add, high-value pickups Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney did not score a touchdown in 2021.
Judge never attempted to truly fix the offense, while blaming Jason Garrett put his job in hotter water. Judge’s philosophy, as he mentioned many times, was prioritizing defense. Unfortunately, that cannot be the case when the NFL is headed by quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.
Many remember ill-advised timeouts that Pat Shurmur took when he headed the New York Giants. Joe Judge made some timeout miscues as a rookie, but those miscues got worse in his second year.
Judge wasted a timeout on a non-challengable play in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. He let more than 30 seconds run off the clock before the two-minute warning in a game where the Giants were down by three to the Kansas City Chiefs. In blowout games down the stretch, he called timeouts when the game was out of reach.
To add to his timeout miscues, Judge’s philosophy based on defense and special teams held the team’s potential back. He said in a press conference that scoring points on every drive are not a priority.
Special Teams-Led Decisions
During his tenure, Judge was known for playing the field position game. Meaning that if the Giants were in a fourth down and short situation on opponent territory, Judge would have the team punt and aim for the defense to make the stop. However, this did not pan out well for a few reasons. The offense did not play well and the special teams unit was worse under him than under Pat Shurmur. Punter Riley Dixon‘s regression played a part in the bad special teams execution.
His fourth-down decisions early in the season were horrific as well as a few infamous ones near the end of the year. On a fourth-down situation with one yard to go inside the red zone in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints, Joe Judge sent out Graham Gano to kick a chip-shot field goal. Gano missed the field goal, prolonging the red zone struggles.
When Washington pinned a punt inside the Giants five-yard line in Week 18, Judge decided to run a few quarterback sneaks. He explained later that this move was made to give the punter more room to kick. Instead of being aggressive in his final week as the head coach, Judge decided to forgo a drive to give his punter more room.
His defense-special teams-led philosophy may have worked in the 1980s, but in an NFL where offense runs ramped, Judge’s plan is invalid. Especially when the special teams unit, including the punter, are bad.
General Manager/Head Coach Timeline
One of the many things John Mara has screwed up in recent years is the timeline between a general manager and a head coach. After the Giants forced Tom Coughlin to resign in 2016, the team kept general manager Jerry Reese and hired Ben McAdoo to replace Coughlin. A few years later, ownership fired head coach Pat Shurmur and kept general manager Dave Gettleman, hiring Joe Judge in January of 2020.
The New York Jets did similar events when they paired John Idzik with then-head coach Rex Ryan. Both were fired after the 2014 season. Also, the Jets fired Mike Maccagnan after the 2019 NFL Draft. Then-head coach Adam Gase then helped hire Joe Douglas as the next general manager. While Douglas remains the Jets general manager, the team fired Gase after a 2-14 season in 2020.
Keeping the general manager-head coach timeline intact is key for franchise stability. Many thought the Giants should have fired Dave Gettleman years ago, however, he is gone now. Mixing up players from past schemes and coaches for a new system almost never works unless a foundation is set. With that being said, despite all of the injury adversity in 2021, Judge did not deserve to come back and did not help himself. His flaws were too noticeable to go unchecked.