Hiring Joe Judge a bold stroke by Giants, who need to shake things up

Stephen A: Joe Judge is the best the Giants could get? (1:53)

Stephen A. Smith expresses his shock and disbelief about the New York Giants finalizing a deal to hire Patriots wide receivers coach Joe Judge as their next head coach. (1:53)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Joe Judge. It's a gutsy move for the New York Giants, who reportedly are on the verge of making him their new coach. It's a name that won't immediately inspire the fan base, even though Judge learned under New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

Judge, 38, has spent the past eight seasons with the Patriots. His NFL career began as a special-teams assistant with New England in 2012 and then he became the special-teams coach when he was 34. He most recently added wide receivers coach to his résumé. And to be honest, 2019 wasn't the best season for Patriots wide receivers.

Risky, no doubt. Judge has never been a head coach at any level. He is taking over a Giants team that just finished 4-12 and has missed the playoffs seven of the past eight years. The fan base is irate that the Giants didn't land Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys) or Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers) -- two of the favorites in the search -- and views it as a continuation of New York's string of questionable moves.

In this case, the snap judgment might be premature. Judge, who blew the Giants away during his interview, was an intriguing candidate from the start with his pedigree and personality. He's known as a fiery coach who isn't afraid to ruffle feathers with players. And that might be exactly what the Giants need.

His path also has a strikingly familiar feel to Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was the Philadelphia Eagles' special-teams coach for nine seasons under coach Andy Reid.

When Harbaugh was hired in 2008, it came after the Ravens had tried to land Jason Garrett, then the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys. That move was not well-received by Ravens fans at the time, but it has proven to be the right move for the franchise. Harbaugh is smart, fiery and waited patiently for his first head-coaching opportunity. Now, he leads the AFC's No. 1 seed into the divisional round of the playoffs this weekend and already has a Super Bowl win with Baltimore on his résumé.

The Giants can only hope Judge matches that success -- and that McCarthy in Dallas or Rhule in Carolina don't become the next Belichick.


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There is no doubt Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are conducting risky business these days. They have seen their marquee franchise lose some of its luster with so much losing. And admittedly the blame starts with them.

But this move at least shows they are open to significant change. It's proof the Giants entered this process with an open mind and were willing to stray from some of their previous ways that landed them in this undesirable position in the first place.

Judge has no previous connection to the organization and was considered a long shot entering the process. But he won over the room to the point the Giants weren't going to bend over backward to accommodate Rhule, who was scheduled to interview on Tuesday. The Giants also bypassed a previously scheduled interview with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Wednesday.

Instead, they started the process of shocking the football world. The Giants landed a coach who should understand structurally how to build a winner after having learned from Saban and Belichick. Now it's just a matter of whether he can implement it at the professional level. That is where much of the risk lies.

But this is what the Giants are getting:

"He's very intense. Joe is really passionate about what he does," Patriots special-teams captain Matthew Slater said in a 2017 story by ESPN's Mike Reiss. "He has a hyperattention to detail; there is no stone unturned by the time we get to the game, and we feel super prepared and know he's going to put us in position to make plays. As a player, that's all you can ask for. And you have to appreciate the energy and passion with which he coaches. I think it really carries over to us as players. We love going out there and playing for him, and for each other."

While Slater is clearly a fan, when speaking with other players about Judge, there were mixed reviews. He's not universally loved, and that might be a good thing. A franchise that has the worst record in the NFL since the start of the 2017 season needs to shake things up. The Giants need to make things uncomfortable in order to precipitate the changes necessary to get the franchise back on track.

This could end up being another in a long line of moves that missed the mark during one of the worst periods in Giants history. But, maybe in 12 years from now we'll be looking at the hiring of Judge much like we are at Harbaugh's.