Bill Belichick disciples have inglorious histories of melting down when given the opportunity to coach their own teams. But Joe Judge is combusting in especially public fashion.
Following the Giants’ miserable 29-3 loss to the Bears Sunday (their fifth straight defeat), Judge stepped up to the podium and unleashed an epic testimony of self-defense that lasted 11 minutes and spanned nearly 2,700 words. In it, Judge made boisterous claims about how much he’s fixed the franchise’s culture, and said former players who took more money elsewhere keep calling him “twice a week” wishing they were still losing games in the Meadowlands. But maybe Judge’s most curious declaration was about the 2018 Patriots.
Judge, who coached special teams on the ’18 team, said nobody on the coaching staff thought they were going to survive the season before the Patriots went on their Super Bowl run.
“In 2018, I was part of a team who halfway through the season we were all pretty convinced we were getting fired,” Judge said. “We didn’t think we were going to make the playoffs. Had no concept of anything that was coming. We just knew we were going to keep showing up week after week.”
While that motto sounds Belichickian, it seems like Judge is just making things up. The Patriots were 6-2 at midseason and their nadir came when they were 9-5. To put that in perspective, the Giants have won just 10 games over Judge’s two seasons at the helm. (But at least the Giants aren't having "fistfights on the sidelines," which Judge cited as an example of his success.)
The 2018 campaign may have been the height of the Belichick-Brady palace intrigue, but the Patriots still wound up winning the Super Bowl. The Giants hired Judge to be the 21st head coach in franchise history one year later.
Of course, it’s possible Belichick was able to keep all of that turmoil under wraps, but Judge made several questionable statements during his desperate rant. He alleged Giants players told him they quit on the team in 2019, despite winning two of their final three games, and said guys were “planning vacations” and storing golf clubs in front of their lockers before he came and cleaned everything up.
“I’ll tell you right now, if you’re in the damn building, you walk on through our locker room, you ain’t seeing that crap you saw before,” Judge said. “All right? You ain’t seeing guys planning vacations, you ain’t seeing golf clubs in front of players’ locker. You ain’t seeing that stuff. OK? You ain’t seeing it. All right, and that’s not because of some high school program because we’re cracking the whip.”
Judge embraced a disciplinary approach when the Giants hired him, forcing players to run sprints and removing their surnames from the back of their practice jerseys. While the scoreboard says those draconian tactics have failed — the Giants are 10-22 under Judge and have been outscored 141-49 over their last five games — Judge insists players like the punishment.
“I know players that we coached last year still calling me twice a week telling me how much they wish they were still here even though they’re getting paid more somewhere else. OK?,” Judge said.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell tried to identify some of those players, but came up short. It seems like they exist in the same universe where Belichick was threatening to clean house on the Patriots’ way to their sixth Super Bowl win.