The most depressing New York Giants season of the century mercifully came to an end yesterday. After a decade filled with almost nothing but incompetence, it felt like we truly reached rock bottom over the course of the last six weeks of this regular season. Those six weeks included injuries, Mike Glennon, Jake Fromm, the infamous free medium Pepsi promotion, a bizarre fabrication-filled rant from Joe Judge, QB sneaks on third down from our own nine yard line, a game with -6 total net passing yards, and a streak of 42 possessions without a single touchdown. As fans, we were forced to endure all of those things. But, the potential light at the end of the tunnel was maybe all of this would finally convince John Mara, and the rest of Giants organization, that real changes needed to be made. But today, fans realized those changes weren’t coming.
Even though the Giants already inexplicably decided to announce that Daniel Jones and Joe Judge would be returning next season back on December 26th, I still held out some hope that the last few weeks of the season would open Mara’s eyes to the fact that Judge needed to be fired today. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Let’s talk about that announcement for a second though. Not only did the timing of it make no sense—there was no reason to announce that the QB and coach of a losing football team will be returning next year during the season—but the idea of keeping Judge was absolutely moronic given the fact that we knew Dave Gettleman would be out as GM after this year. There are certain things that smart franchises do; Hiring a new GM and not allowing him to have say in who his head coach will be is not one of those things. When I first saw that announcement, I was convinced it had much more to do with Mara’s pride than anything else. There was, and are, no football-related reasons to keep Judge as the head coach of this team. Many of the players looked like they had quit on him and the season, and we were playing probably the worst football of any team in the league. To me, that announcement—and ultimately the decision to keep Judge as the head coach for another year—happened solely because John Mara didn’t want to admit he fucked up again, and in turn have to hire yet another head coach. And what do you know? my theory was essentially confirmed by Jay Glazer last night:
Glazer reported that there was frustration in the locker room, and many of the players wanted Judge out. But, that didn’t matter because Mara and the rest of the front office were basically embarrassed that they would have gone through three head coaches in six years if they fired Judge. I understand not wanting your franchise to look bad and unstable by firing yet another head coach just two years after hiring him, but the evaluation of Joe Judge as a head coach should have absolutely nothing to do with the past failures or successes of previous coaches. That is just not something that a competent organization would do. You don’t continue to do the thing you know doesn’t work just to try to save face. The solution to not having a revolving door of head coaches is to hire better coaches, not to hold on to shitty ones. Pardon the cliché but clearly Judge lost the locker room when he flat out lied to the media and fans in his strange tirade after the Bears game. Once that happened, it should have been a guarantee that he would not return next season.
The most depressing thing about Judge staying on as head coach is it seems like fans were wrong when it comes to the one skill we thought he possessed after last season. In 2020, the Giants started 1-7 but finished 5-3 over their last eight games. This led us to believe Judge was a great motivator, and a coach able to get his players to compete every week regardless of their record. But then, as I mentioned earlier, the team completely quit on him at the end of this season and many of them reportedly hoped he would be fired. So, it turns out he can’t even do the one thing that we thought he could do. Honestly, and I say this without any humorous intent, I do not know a single thing that Judge is good at. I don’t know what he does, besides deliver the same ra-ra clichés in his post-game press conference every week. And I have no clue what his expertise is, or if he even has one. These are not questions you want fans to have of you after two full seasons of being head coach. Unfortunately, it’s seeming more and more like the only reason he was hired in the first place is because he talks like, and has the aesthetic of, an “old school, traditional” coach that the Maras are obsessed with. And it is this commitment to tradition, and conservative attitude, that has ultimately led to the Giants downfall.
The Giants have been one of the most conservative franchises in the sport over the last decade, and have seen very little success because of it. This problem starts at the top with John Mara. He has proven time and time again that he is either unable or unwilling to adapt to the direction the NFL is heading. The Giants are being run like a team from a different era, which is why the rest of the league has passed them by. Mara is still holding on to some bullshit outdated idea of what the “Giants” are. It can even be seen in the organization’s decision today to frame Gettleman’s ousting as a “retirement” instead of a firing. They did the same thing with Tom Coughlin’s “resignation” in 2016. I can at least understand why they did this when it comes to Coughlin though. He was a mostly beloved head coach who led the team to two Super Bowls, so it’s much easier to grasp why they would allow him to “resign” instead of announcing that he had been fired. In terms of Gettleman though, the man was an abject failure as GM and his tenure should have came to an end with a true firing. He ran the organization into the ground, failed to accomplish any of the goals he set out for himself, and finished with a 19-46 record as GM. It boggles my mind why the Giants felt they needed to give him the respect of allowing him to announce his departure as a “retirement.” The truth is he failed and he was fired, as he should have been. But Mara couldn’t just come out and respect the fans enough to announce that. It’s just another example of the bullshit, backwards, and outdated way of doing things that has gotten this franchise into the trouble that it is currently in.
Ultimately, what did Giants fans learn today? We learned that despite our hopes, this organization has no intention of making the changes truly necessary to turn this franchise around. Firing a GM, but keeping the head coach, probably the quarterback, most of the coaching staff, and the front office does not count as actual change. It seems like Mara is too arrogant or too proud to do anything that would qualify as “actual change” though. He’s stuck in his outdated ways and will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. What have those mistakes led to? A losing franchise and a fanbase that hates him. But Mara doesn’t realize that because his idea of who the Giants are isn’t based in reality. He’s living in the past.
The first step to solving any problem is admitting that there is one. The Giants have the worst record of any team in the NFL over the past five years. They’ve made the playoffs once in the last decade. They’ve finished with a losing record in eight of their last ten seasons, including the past five. They haven’t won the division since 2011. They are losers. Once John Mara is finally able to admit that, maybe he’ll be able to actually start solving that problem.