Joe Judge: A Head Coach Who Has Failed To Adapt To The Modern Day
“We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of because this team will represent this area.”
Joe Judge said those exact words in his introductory press conference in 2020. Safe to say Giants fans aren’t too proud of this team. A year and a half into the Joe Judge era, the Giants have a cumulative record of 7–14, struggling to play competitive football most of the time. For all the times he seems to win over Giants fans in press conferences, he balances it out with a boneheaded move on the field. From his conservative, old-school approach, inability to play his best players, forgetting the basic rules of football, and overall hypocrisy at times, Judge has struggled. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these very, very prevalent issues.
Judge writes the script himself sometimes. Word for word, he said:
“I’m not afraid to go for it on fourth down, I’m not afraid to go for two, I’m not afraid to run fakes, onside kicks. Trust me, I don’t live in a world of fear. I don’t.”
And in our fall back to reality, everyone can see for themselves that the Giants are in fact afraid. They rarely go for it when they should as seen here:
The Giants go for it about ~20% of the time when they should, good for the bottom ten in the league. Even if it seems like analytical fans are just yelling nonsense about Judge and others at times, there are significant problems with Judge’s game-calling. He throws away win probability often, with decisions such as punting on 4th and 3 from the opposing 39 in a game where they were down 1. The Giants lost 5!! percentage points in win probability (by @benbbaldwin’s model) thanks to this one single decision. This new climate of football requires you to give yourself the edge, and Judge frankly isn’t doing that. Take a look at the following, in which the great Ben Baldwin once again demonstrates how poorly the Giants do with 4th down decisions.
Each and every game, Judge manages to throw away about 4 percentage points in win probability. Like, just think about this. Analytical staffers and numbers people, in general, found an edge in football, being how a team can exploit 4th downs. Many teams have begun to pick it up. The Ravens, Chargers, Browns lead the way. Coincidentally, they’re also good teams (shocker, isn’t it). Yet, the Giants choose to ignore it. Whether it’s an ego problem Judge has or just the organization is stuck in an outdated mindset, they actively aren’t doing their best to win football games. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about right? Winning football games? Well, not the case for the Giants. Take a read of this Judge quote, another stunner from his press conference:
“You cannot get by with some kind of magic scheme or new gimmick or think you’ve reinvented the wheel. The same things win football games that have always won football games.”
What if told you new things are winning football games? The wheel has in fact been reinvented! You’ve just been left behind while the rest of the league runs laps around you.
There really isn’t much else to say about 4th downs. They’ve been figured out. The teams that take advantage of this edge, good for them. And for the teams like the Giants, who willingly ignore a free way to improve your chances to win, you did it to yourself. Watching teams like the Chargers, led by Brandon Staley, consistently exploit 4th downs to their advantage and then coming back to the old-school mindset of the Giants hurts. Analytics has earned a negative connotation amongst football people for some reason, and to that, I say, analytics isn’t trying to take away from what football is. It’s more information at your disposal, just like a scouting report on another team, and taking it into account can’t hurt. Sports evolve. Baseball is a completely different game than it was ten years ago. Football’s doing the same, that’s all this is.
Play Your Best Players, Right?
A fairly simple concept you’d think. Your best players belong on the field as often as they can be. Fair, right? Not so fast. Enter Joe Judge. Let’s start with the obvious example, a head-scratching one at that. Kadarius Toney has burst onto the scene, posting a 92.4 PFF grade last week with 150+ scrimmage yards. He’s been fantastic. Yet, we only saw a glimpse of what he could do in Week 4. He saw a total of 5 targets in the first three of the weeks of the season, compared to 20 over the last two weeks. His snap counts progress from 5, 19, 46, 50, 37 from weeks 1–5, respectively. Toney’s been the Giants' best wide receiver by a mile. Big free-agent acquisition Kenny Golladay has struggled, perhaps due to injuries, but he’s struggled. Shepard and Slayton have been out of the lineup due to injuries as well, putting the burden on Toney and a few other receivers.
The light hasn’t been too big for Toney at all. He stepped into a bleak situation and has done his best to uplift a mediocre offense. Naturally, one has to question where was he in the first three weeks? Everyone’s seen his ability to break tackles. Look at this, admire it.
Somehow, someway, we had to wait four weeks to see what he could really do. Not even just a disservice to the Giants, but it’s a disservice to football fans everywhere this talent was hidden away for three weeks.
Of course, there’s more. For some godforsaken reason, the Giants put Kyle Rudolph out onto the field each and every week. Not only is he old, a shell of the receiving threat he once was, but he also doesn’t show effort. Surely you’ve all seen the play in which Daniel Jones was concussed last week, Rudolph just gave up on his block and didn’t go to push Jones in, he left him out to get crushed. He let Kadarius Toney get in a brawl all by himself last week, refusing to join in and walking towards a bleak bench rather than support his rookie teammate. There’s nothing Rudolph does that Kaden Smith doesn’t do besides show less heart, yet we’re stuck watching Rudolph week in and week out.
Jabrill Peppers saw his snap count dwindle at the start of the season, having only played 45% of snaps in week one. And to this, Joe Judge provided a gem.
“This is an important time of the year of really making sure you kind of find who you are through September and that’s part of playing all of our guys.”
Why use preseason and training camp to evaluate your players when you can use regular-season games? How can a real-life NFL coach say this seriously? I mean, woof. Good teams usually know who they want to play come the first game of the season, which I guess lines up with the Giants not knowing who they want to play. Peppers isn’t some rookie (*coughs in Kadarius Toney*). He’s been with the team, knows the scheme, and is a defensive captain. Yet, he played less than half the game. Don’t worry though, it’s uber-important the Giants evaluate their roster over the first quarter of the regular season. After a full decade of losing, who needs to know their best players at the start of the season? Not us, that’s for sure.
Mental Errors and Misleading Words
Week 1, Joe Judge throws a challenge flag on a touchdown attempt from Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, believing he didn’t get in. Understandable, yeah? Ehhh, not so fast. Every scoring play is automatically reviewed by the referees, in every game. Throwing a challenge flag here results in a loss of timeout. Surely enough, they lost a timeout because Judge got caught up in the heat of the moment and made a bone-headed move. In a year where everything’s being evaluated for the Giants, they just can’t afford mistakes like this.
Another less blatant one occurred last week. With about 40 seconds left in the half against Dallas last week, the Giants got the ball back. They were only down 7 at this stage in the game and were equipped with all three timeouts. In a league where we’ve seen multiple teams engineer quick drives to score, like the Vikings against Detroit last week, one would hope the Giants would take their shots here. At least play for field goal territory. Glennon kneeled, and the Giants effectively threw away all three timeouts and a chance at scoring. It’s pathetic honestly that they wouldn’t try to score there. The Giants aren’t exactly a high-scoring team. They need to take advantage of every single possession, and they failed to do so last week.
For someone who preached the fundamentals so much, quote to come, Judge doesn’t seem to grasp the fundamentals of the sport he coaches.
“It’s fundamentals. Those fundamentals will start for us in the classroom. They’ll start with being in meetings on time, they’ll start with being on the field on time in the proper dress. They’ll start with knowing your playbook.”
Asking your players to know the playbook without knowing the rulebook seems a bit hypocritical, doesn’t it? He said in the same conference that he’ll make sure the team is “situationally aware”, yet tosses timeouts to the side like they’re nothing. I haven’t been inspired by this, have you?
In the same press conference, he claimed he’ll always have the best interest of his players at hand. But this past week, when Toney (stupidly) threw a punch at a Cowboys player, was he there to defend his player? Nope. He pulled him aside immediately and gave him a mouthful of words, definitely filled with expletives. After an amazing game, putting down your young rookie doesn’t seem to be the best move. Judge has to know the New York media will eat that type of stuff. We saw it with Odell. For someone who has preached discipline his whole time here, he can’t hold his team accountable with stupid acts like Toney’s. Put your arm around Toney, talk to him, show him where he wronged. Don’t yell at him to get the f*ck out. Players are humans that make mistakes, and it would have made for a perfect teaching moment during such a passionate game. Instead, Judge pushed him to the side.
At the end of all of this, it’s fairly simple. Joe Judge hasn’t shown any ability to adapt to modern football. He refuses to adapt to how fourth downs are approached, struggles with game-clock management, and finds himself contradicting words he said in past press conferences. Often claiming he’s there to support his players first and foremost, he’s failed to show that on the field. Ever since he joined the organization preaching old-school football and the fundamentals, I was put off by him. I guess it’s the natural balance of football. For every Brandon Staley, there’s a Joe Judge. Hopefully, the Giants land on the right side of the coin with their next head coach.