Joe Judge has been fired as head coach of the New York Giants, the team announced Tuesday evening. It comes as a somewhat pleasant surprise. Pleasant, because it is good when the most self-satisfied guy on Earth loses his job. Surprise, because the coach with a 10-23 record surviving Black Monday and outlasting Brian Flores had lent him an almost Teflon quality. Also, the reporter who broke the news of his firing did so about 30 hours after she reported that Judge was not being fired.
Those fickle league sources! Only last week, in a postgame meltdown after a 29-3 loss to the Bears, Judge had promised better days ahead. As he told it, the team's pending free agents often swarmed his office "begging to come back" next year. (I'm sure Mike Glennon was!) Some former Giants called him twice a week to say they wished they were still on the team. ("Many Giants players—including some of the team’s best players—were baffled by those quotes," NJ.com reports in its Joe Judge postmortem this morning.) The Giants, Judge insisted, were "a whole lot closer to where we’re going than further away. I can tell you that right now."
Evidently, his bosses didn't believe him. In the statement announcing Judge's firing, owner John Mara wrote, "I said before the season started that I wanted to feel good about the direction we were headed when we played our last game of the season. Unfortunately, I cannot make that statement, which is why we have made this decision."
Mara is correct; no one can make that statement. Joe Judge's Giants played bad and conservative football, all of it fronted by the least charismatic person imaginable. How seriously can you take a tough-guy act when you know the tough guy in question has just called a QB sneak on third-and-9 from the team's own 4-yard line? Bad football doesn't have to be this way!
On Monday, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was allowed the dignity of "retirement" from the franchise. That was a less plausible option for the 40-year-old Judge. Until late December, management was reportedly committed to the sunk cost fallacy, reluctant to fire the Giants' fourth coach in seven years and intent on bringing back Judge for a third season. Reports that Judge's meetings with ownership this week could span several days seemed like a way of letting fans down gently. Giants beat reporters suspected these meetings would involve Judge "presenting a plan for how he can turn things around" and promising "philosophical and schematic changes." If the generosity extended to football men who have never, ever earned it is demoralizing, take some comfort in the blessed mental image of this chump begging for his job in a conference room.
But the plan did not convince, and it didn't take Giants ownership the promised "several more days" to make their decision. New mental image: a sweaty Joe Judge pathetically booting up some PowerPoint presentation of schematic changes, fumbling around with a laser pointer, and so disgusting the Mara family upon opening his mouth to speak that he is kicked out of the room immediately. Wonderful. We preemptively wish him the best back on Nick Saban's staff.