Tuesday's announcement that Joe Judge would be the New York Giants' new head coach was met with a cacophony of “who?” and a chorus of laughter, but the 38-year-old comes to East Rutherford with the endorsements of two of the most well-respected voices in all of football.
As reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick personally called the Giants to advocate on Judge's behalf. Judge held multiple roles in his time on Belichick's staff in Foxboro. By the time this most recent season came around, Belichick gave his long-time special teams coordinator the team's wide receivers coaching position in addition to his primary special teams duties. He was the only coach in the league to hold both roles, according to ESPN.
“The Giants, from what I understand, got a phone call from Bill Belichick basically selling them that Judge is someone who was, in fact, qualified to be a head coach,” Rapoport said. “Belichick has met with Judge regularly over the last couple of years, helping school and helping tutor him about being a head coach.”
“This is one Belichick spotted early, and believes is ready,” he added.
Well before Judge received a vote of confidence from one of the foremost minds in the NFL, he secured one from Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban — a football genius in his own right. Judge navigated his way from Mississippi State — his alma mater — to Birmingham Southern and, finally, to Alabama to study under Saban and company as a special teams assistant.
“Working for Coach Saban, every day is an education,” Judge told ESPN back in 2017. “I loved it. When I took the job, the No. 1 thing he hit me with was the emphasis of developing coaches… He was tremendous. He's intense. All the great coaches I've been fortunate to be around all had the same fundamental philosophy — it's no shortcuts, and hard work pays off.”
After two years in Tuscaloosa, Judge moved to the northeast to join forces with Belichick. Still, according to Judge himself, none of his early NFL success would have been possible without Saban.
“I ended up [in New England] through the connection of Coach Saban and Scotty O,” Judge said. “When I was at Alabama, I was fortunate to make contacts with Scotty coming through, and Coach's relationship with the Patriots. A job came open, I was notified about it, I was interested in it, and one thing led to another.”
While Judge's relatively limited experience may be cause for concern among Giants die-hards, his tutelage and subsequent endorsement from two of the most successful coaches in college football history should quell some of that doubt.
Even with that level of expertise behind him, Judge has a tough battle ahead of him in overhauling the wayward New York franchise he just inherited. He'll be tasked with developing young quarterback Daniel Jones and bringing the Giants — who were 4-12 last season — to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.