Joe Judge was perhaps the least visible and most overlooked candidate the Giants interviewed for their head coaching vacancy.
That did not stop them from offering the job to him.
The Giants and Judge spent Tuesday finalizing a deal to make Judge the 19th head coach in franchise history, a source confirmed to Newsday. Judge, who just turned 38 and had been the special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach for the Patriots, interviewed with the team on Monday.
That meeting obviously went well.
But there were two other events that led to the offer. One was the cancellation of the anticipated Tuesday interview with Matt Rhule. The Baylor coach had long been at or near the top of the Giants’ wish list and they expected to meet with him on Tuesday morning. Instead, Rhule accepted a reported seven-year deal worth $62 million from the Panthers, who had flown to Waco, Texas, to meet with him on Monday. The Giants were given an opportunity to match or beat the offer, but opted not to.
The other event was a conversation with Bill Belichick. The Patriots coach, who was a two-time Super Bowl winning coordinator for the Giants and still holds the franchise and its ownership in very high regard, gave a glowing recommendation on Judge. That carried a lot of weight with the Giants.
So much so that the Giants canceled their Wednesday interview with another Belichick disciple, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and scrapped plans to speak with former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, for whom they had just asked permission to speak with about the job. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, both of whom had interviewed last weekend, were thanked for their participation in the process.
And the Giants handed the team over to Judge.
The Giants have maintained since their firing of Pat Shurmur that they were not looking for a play-caller or the next X’s and O’s savant. They wanted a leader, someone who can grab the attention of the roster, speak to them in terms that appeal to their age demographic, hire a dynamic staff, and set an overall tone. They wanted a head coach, which is something they have not had since they parted ways with Tom Coughlin. Ben McAdoo and Shurmur came from the offensive side of the ball and their attentions as head coach often reflected that bias. That likely would have happened with Bieniemy and Martindale, too.
Rhule offered the opposite, someone to oversee the entire operation. That’s part of what made him so appealing. Judge, now, comes with the same quality.
Judge has been coaching for 15 years, including the last eight with the Patriots. He was the team’s assistant special teams coach for three years and special teams coordinator for four. When Chad O’Shea left the Patriots after the 2018 season to become the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, Judge became the Patriots’ wide receivers coach, too. It was a sign he had earned the trust of Belichick to run two groups, and also another line on his resume for when teams came calling for him as a head coach.
Belichick, it is said, had been grooming Judge for some time, keeping him close by during planning meetings and other head coaching duties that offensive or defensive coordinators would not have time to attend because of their own hectic responsibilities.
Judge was on the Patriots’ staff when they won three of the last five Super Bowls, and he was also on the University of Alabama staff under Nick Saban when the Crimson Tide captured BCS titles in 2009 and 2011. He helped bring analytics to Saban’s program at the time, which is something the Giants have been forthcoming about wanting to add more of to their organization.
As for his inexperience, the Giants may try to mitigate that with other staffing hires. Garrett’s name was floated as a potential offensive coordinator or associate head coach on Tuesday, but the Giants had requested permission to interview him for their head coaching job, not something below that. Longtime defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was recently fired by the Rams, and he had success being the on-the-scene mentor for young Rams coach Sean McVay the past three seasons. The Giants also have other options, including retaining offensive coordinator Mike Shula in his job. Quarterback Daniel Jones and Shula had a strong relationship in their one season together and it could help maintain some continuity for the young player.
As has long been the policy of the Giants, the head coach and not the team brass will hire the staff. But it’s a sure bet there were ideas bandied about by both sides in the interview on Monday.
The Giants were the only NFL team that even asked to interview Judge regarding their head coach job. That makes this even more of a gamble than head coach hires normally are.
But given what the Giants have become in recent years, it may be one worth taking.
WHO IS JOE JUDGE?
Age: 38 (born Dec. 31, 1981)
College: Mississippi State (working toward his PhD in education). Played from 2000-04, mostly on special teams.
Personal: Married to former soccer player Amber Meesey, who was All-SEC at Mississippi State. They have four children. His father, Joseph, played football at Temple and in the CFL.
Claims to fame: On Patriots staff that won three of the last five Super Bowls as well as the Alabama staff that won BCS titles in 2009 and 2011.
2005-07: Mississippi State, grad assistant
2008: Birmingham-Southern College, linebackers coach
2009-11: Alabama, special teams assistant
2012-14: Patriots, special teams assistant
2015-18: Patriots, special teams coordinator
2019: Patriots, special teams coordinator/WR coach