Joe Judge's coaching future up in the air on day Dave Gettleman retires
Joe Judge was not fired on Monday morning.
But that does not mean he will be back for the 2022 season.
The coach of the Giants remained in a confusing state of ambiguous authority as the first full day of the offseason played out for a 4-13 team that crash-landed with six straight double-digit losses to close its schedule.
Judge reported to work on Monday morning and went through the process of mopping up the spills from the just-ended season. That included the early phases of reconstructing a coaching staff that will see plenty of changes, diving deeper into the issues that prevented the Giants from winning all but four of their games, and even running a team meeting with the players, who will be scattering in many directions.
No one kicked Judge out, but no one told him definitively that he will be back, either.
That might not even happen this week.
While Judge’s future teetered, one of the other main architects of the team brought his tenure to a close. General manager Dave Gettleman announced his retirement on Monday, an unsurprising revelation that undoubtedly was nudged on by ownership after a dreadful four years in the role.
The Giants’ owners wished Gettleman well in their joint statement announcing his departure, but co-owner Steve Tisch gave a rather glaring and damning assessment of the past few years in a remark separate from co-owner John Mara’s. It was refreshingly off-script from the usually flowery appreciations.
"It is an understatement to say John and I are disappointed by the lack of success we have had on the field," Tisch said. "We are united in our commitment to find a general manager who will provide the direction necessary for us to achieve the on-field performance and results we all expect."
That disappointment almost certainly lands on Judge as well.
Judge met with Mara on Monday afternoon after the team meeting. The Giants wanted to wrap up 2021 before moving on to the pressing decisions for 2022.
There is a growing belief that the Giants will not fully commit to bringing Judge back in 2022 until they have found a new GM and can be sure that their visions for the organization are in line with each other.
If the GM wants to go in a different direction, the owners could be persuaded to follow that advice.
They began their search for that new executive on Monday and requested permission to interview Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen and Kansas City executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles. They also are expected to strongly consider their own assistant GM, Kevin Abrams, for the job.
The process could take some time, which meant that as the players left the building for their offseasons Monday, they found it hard to make any declarative statements about their coach for next season.
Some seemed convinced Judge will return.
"He talked about next year and how he’s going to construct things and try to improve as a team and as a coach," said defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, who took that as an indication that Judge will be given a third season. "I didn’t think he would be released or anything like that."
Others were less certain.
"I don’t really know how to answer that," Saquon Barkley said Monday when asked for his understanding of the current head coach position in the organization. "It’s the same as it was yesterday. We just had our exit meeting. Judge addressed the team. There are things we need to work on . . . That’s about it."
Still others took a wait-and-see approach. Said safety Logan Ryan: "It wasn’t like he announced he was coming back . . . We’ll just continue as normal until we hear anything new."
That may be a while.
The Giants have a tradition of being very slow and methodical when considering and then making such changes. There is a lot for Mara and Tisch to consider and talk out.
After the 2006 season, it took them nearly three days to be convinced to bring Tom Coughlin back for a fourth season, a time span during which Coughlin made assurances and outlined the changes he would be implementing (which led to a Super Bowl win the following season, by the way).
More recently, they have made quicker calls, such as firing Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo midseason in 2017 and parting ways with Pat Shurmur immediately after the 2019 season, the time line of which, if not the arrival at a decision, Mara seemed to regret.
The Giants want to think this one through. If it means creating some uncertainty for a few days at the cost of stability down the road, that seems to be a price they’re willing to pay.