If we’ve learned one thing about Joe Judge in his brief tenure as the Giants’ coach, it is this: He is as demanding a coach as there is in football, and if he sees something he doesn’t like, he will not hesitate to change it.
Which leads us to Wednesday, when the Giants departed the team facility for their bye- week break, but not before Judge made a bold move by firing offensive line coach Marc Colombo and replacing him with Dave DeGuglielmo. It was not quite what Judge had in mind as the day began, but after Colombo bristled at the idea of DeGuglielmo joining the staff as an adviser, Judge put his foot down and told the former Cowboys offensive lineman he’s out.
Another no-nonsense moment from a coach who is all about doing what he believes is best for his team. And Judge knew from the offensive line’s problems for much of the first half of the season that something had to be done.
Judge thus turned to a familiar face in DeGuglielmo, who has 28 years of coaching experience, including 15 in the NFL, and previously worked with Judge on Bill Belichick’s staff in 2014-15. The Patriots won a Super Bowl the first year and went to the AFC Championship the second.
And this is not an unfamiliar situation for DeGuglielmo himself. He started the 2019 season as an analyst on the Miami staff of Brian Flores, another former Belichick assistant, and became the offensive line coach after just four days in training camp. Flores, a taskmaster like Judge, wasn’t comfortable with longtime offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, who was with the Giants during their two Super Bowl runs under Tom Coughlin. So he replaced him with DeGuglielmo, who had also worked on Coughlin’s staff from 2004-08.
"We appreciate what Marc has done, but I felt like this move is in the best interest of the team," Judge said in a terse statement released shortly after Colombo’s ouster. The two men were reported to have had a heated exchange before Judge fired Colombo.
The Giants’ line has improved the last two weeks — perhaps not coincidentally because of Judge’s increased involvement — and back-to-back wins over Washington and Philadelphia have suddenly elevated the Giants into playoff contention in an admittedly woeful NFC East. Credit Judge for acting decisively here, because he knows that offensive line play is one of the most important factors in the performance of his team, especially his quarterback. If Daniel Jones has the kind of time to throw as he has the last two weeks, then the Giants’ improvement can be sustained when they return from the bye next weekend in Cincinnati.
Offensive line play is one of the least glamorous subjects in terms of fan interest, but it’s one of the most important areas for any football team. It’s the lifeblood of an offense, even if the players are barely recognizable. Offensive linemen like to tell you they belong to the NFL’s "Mushroom Society," a fraternity where, like mushrooms, you’re kept in the dark and fed a bunch of . . . uh . . . manure.
But it’s in the trenches where games are often decided. If you block well for your quarterback and your running backs, then you increase your chances of success. The results have been spotty for the Giants, especially first-round left tackle Andrew Thomas. But he has improved of late, and center Nick Gates has shown steady leadership for much of the season. Fifth-round rookie guard Shane Lemieux has done well in replacing left guard Will Hernandez after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, and Lemieux moved over to right guard after Kevin Zeitler suffered a concussion in Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Eagles.
It’s a young and promising group of linemen, one that needs proper tutelage. Judge was concerned enough about Colombo’s work that he felt the need to take a more hands-on approach and then bring in DeGuglielmo during the bye week.
Coaching changes are business as usual on any staff, but this one had the added drama of an in-season move that included plenty of ill will from the coach in question. But Judge is clearly the man in charge. What happened Wednesday was just the latest example.