Joe Judge came to the Giants two years ago and delivered a promise that fans would get the kind of football team they deserved. Tough. Physical. Disciplined. The kind of team that represented the area, he told us.
On Tuesday, after delivering just 10 wins over two seasons and losing his last six games in successively pathetic fashion, Judge’s run has ended.
Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch met with Judge on Monday afternoon, and then Mara met separately with Judge on Tuesday before delivering the news that it was over.
"Steve and I both believe it is in the best interest of our franchise to move in another direction," Mara said in a statement released by the team late Tuesday afternoon. "I said before the season that I wanted to feel good about the direction we were headed when we played our last game of the season. Unfortunately, I cannot make that statement, which is why we have made this decision."
The move comes a day after Dave Gettleman announced his retirement after four woeful seasons as general manager and a day before the Giants begin interviewing candidates to replace him.
Quite simply, this decision had to happen.
By the time the season ended meekly in a 22-7 loss to Washington, the Giants’ oldest rivals, it was obvious that keeping Judge would have led to an unworkable dynamic moving forward. Especially with the move to hire a new general manager. The fans had already been through the various stages of football-induced grief. At first, there was hope last year, when Judge rallied the team from an 0-5 start and briefly flirted with playoff contention before faltering down the stretch in an awful NFC East that was finally captured by a Washington team with a losing record.
Then, there was optimism with the signing of free agent wide receiver Kenny Golladay, the retention of Pro Bowl defensive lineman Leonard Williams, the drafting of first-round receiver Kadarius Toney, and a promising offseason for Daniel Jones. But the goodwill ended after an 0-3 start that worsened to 1-5. The Giants never recovered, Judge fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, Jones suffered a season-ending neck injury in late November, and the Giants haven’t won since.
Hope, followed by anger, and then the worst thing of all: apathy.
On a cold, dreary Sunday afternoon, the parking lots were mostly empty before the game, and the stands were barely a third full. And those who did show up saw the same old same old. A non-functioning offense that Judge had run two quarterback sneaks from inside the 5-yard line because he was afraid of what might happen if quarterback Jake Fromm handed the ball off or attempted a pass.
Lifelong Giants fan Nathan Fiovarante put a bag over his head, affixed an empty Pepsi bottle to the side in recalling that silly giveaway of a medium drink at the Cowboys’ game, and watched from his corner seats in the lower bowl. "Joe Judge Fan Club" was scribbled on the front of the bag, and Fiovarante stayed till the very end to let Judge have it one more time.
One final time.
Mara had desperately wanted to avoid this scenario, saying before the season that he owed it to Judge to give him time to grow into the job. The team’s president and co-owner had abruptly fired coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese after the ill-fated benching of Eli Manning for Geno Smith. Hoping for better luck with Pat Shurmur, Mara was again disappointed with two double-digit losing seasons and pulled the plug. Judge was a virtually unknown special teams coach in New England who had one very important thing going for him: Bill Belichick’s recommendation.
A brilliant interview from Judge, and Mara was smitten.
But Judge turned out to be fool’s gold, not a reasonable facsimile of Belichick or his other mentor, Nick Saban.
With Mara and Tisch about to embark on a GM search that would have been awkward at best knowing that Judge was still the coach, the two decided to make an entirely clean break and go for the reset.
They have failed to find the right combination since the team won its last Super Bowl after the 2011 season, and now the search goes on once more.
The Giants have gone from the delirious post-Super Bowl XLVI celebration following a second victory over the Patriots a decade ago to what they have become: the worst team in the NFL.
They can only hope things get better after the failed Gettleman-Judge partnership.