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Monday, August 8, 2022

What’s next for Joe Judge? 6 options for the fired Giants coach (keep an eye on the Texans)

For 18 minutes on Wednesday, Giants co-owner John Mara, dejected, tried to explain the downfall of his once-proud franchise. He called the current state of the team — five straight seasons of at least 10 losses, a 4-13 record in 2021, one playoff appearance in the last 10 years — the lowest moment in his tenure as owner.

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He wasn’t ready to admit the team needs to make full-scale changes beyond the head coach and general manager, and Mara defiantly defended his brother Chris, and his role in the process for hiring the next general manager.

But it seemed pretty clear, even on Wednesday, that Mara didn’t think he’d be firing Joe Judge after only two years, especially after how much he’d praised him — both publicly and in interviews with certain outlets — following last year’s 6-10 finish. Now, Judge will have to find another job elsewhere, and he should have some options too.

According to New York Daily News, it wasn’t even entirely Mara’s decision to fire Judge. Per the report, Mara initially wanted to give Judge a third year, but co-owner Steve Tisch — who hasn’t been made available to the media — pushed for a full reset with a new general manager and head coach, instead of just a new GM.

Tisch’s only comments since the sweeping changes were to say that “it is an understatement to say John and I are disappointed by the lack of success we have had on the field.”

Wednesday, Mara said that “I still think that there is a really good head coach inside of Joe Judge. I just felt like given where we are right now on the verge of bringing in a new general manager, we have to give that person the flexibility to bring in the head coach that he wants. I think that was a large part of the decision here in making a change. I just felt like we really needed to just start from the ground up again.”

He repeated that line again later: “Listen, I still believe that there is a good head coach inside of him, but I just felt like given where we are at the moment – and certainly, certainly that is not all due to him – given where we are right now, I felt like we needed a clean sweep.”

Mara also called it “painful” and “gut-wrenching” having to tell Judge that he was fired.

It’s not as if Judge was completely blameless, of course. The Giants were a mess by the end of the season, losing six straight games by double digits, and Judge was incessantly mocked around the NFL for an 11-minute rant and some questionable decision making in the last game of the season. The Giants went 10-23 in his two years. NJ Advance Media reported earlier in the week that Judge’s coaching and message had begun falling on deaf ears with much of the locker room toward the end of his tenure.

But alas, Judge is gone and the Giants will start their fourth head coaching search in seven years. But what does that mean for Judge? His future is fascinating, though it seems unlikely he’ll get another NFL head coaching job in the near future with the way things ended for him.

Here are six different paths Judge might take next:

Take the year off. According to Pro Football Talk, Judge signed a five-year, $25 million deal in 2020 and only completed two of those years before getting fired. Mara and Tisch will have to pay him the remainder of his contract, which comes out to $15 million over the next three years. Judge has four children, including one that plays football at Don Bosco Prep. It would be understandable if Judge wanted to take the year off to spend with his family — though he doesn’t have the personality of someone that would stay away from football for long.

“One thing that’s in common with guys that are good coaches is they’re always talking ball,” Judge said in December. “You ask me all the time about what we do hobby-wise, what we do away from ball. The reality is, most of us don’t do much because our hobby is ball and that just happens to be what you get paid for.”

Return to New England: Even while Judge was coaching the Giants, he kept in contact with his close friends and former coworkers with the Patriots — including Bill Belichick, who was always fond of Judge in the past. Judge wouldn’t be the first coach to return to the nest after flaming out elsewhere (see: Matt Patricia). The Patriots have a special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach (his two most recent positions with the Patriots) but it wouldn’t be hard for Belichick to find a role for Judge.

Return to Alabama: Just like with the Patriots, coaches frequently flock to Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama after getting fired elsewhere. Bill O’Brien and Doug Marrone were on the Alabama staff in 2021. O’Brien might be trying to make his return to the NFL now too. Judge has kept a close relationship with Saban and much of his NFL staff was full of former Alabama assistants. Saban would likely welcome him back with open arms, and Judge might be a pretty good recruiter too if that’s what he wanted.

Follow Brian Flores: Beyond the current Patriots staff, Judge has also kept close with other Belichick disciples. That includes Flores, recently fired by the Dolphins but expected to land a new head coaching gig quickly. It wouldn’t be shocking if he brought Judge with him as a special teams coordinator — unless Flores was hired by the Giants, of course.

The Texans: Houston just fired David Culley after only one season and many expect GM Nick Caserio — from the Patriots executive tree — to pull his next head coach from New England. Judge likely wouldn’t be a candidate for the head coaching gig, but Caserio seems to be in charge of all aspects of the coaching search – possibly even who will be there as assistant coaches — and he has a relationship with Judge from New England. Judge landing with the Texans would make even more sense if Flores, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels or linebackers coach Jerod Mayo were hired in Houston.

Florida Gators: If Judge really wanted to become a college coach at this point — which can’t be ruled out — Florida might be an interesting destination. He and new Florida head coach Billy Napier worked together at Alabama back in the day, and the Gators just hired Rob Sale off Judge’s staff with the Giants to be offensive coordinator. Florida has yet to hire a special teams coordinator, at least according to the team site.

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Zack Rosenblatt may be reached at zrosenblatt@njadvancemedia.com.

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