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Joe Judge: Bad coach or brilliant comedian?

One player said he was running hoax. He may be right.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Is New York Football Giants Head Football Coach Joe Judge an actual coach or a next level comedic performance artist? Judge’s tenure with the Giants, which has never failed to entertain, makes much more sense if you assume he is doing an act. Nathan For You meets Ted Lasso, but for an actual team. I mean come on, “Joe Judge” even sounds like a fictitious character.

Don’t just take my word for it. A player who was in training camp with Joe Judge said “to be honest, man, I just felt like it was all a hoax.” I think there’s plenty of evidence that Joe Judge is playing a hoax on the Giants.

Any good comedic actor doing an act among people who aren’t in on the joke knows that it is important to constantly test your limits, and to let your environment do your work for you whenever possible. The OODA loop works for comedy. Push the envelope with your audience or in this case subjects, see how the void it gets filled, react accordingly and repeat the cycle. On this, Joe Judge excels.

Right away Joe Judge was given material to work with. Jason Garrett, who everyone that isn’t Giants management knows, is a joke of a coach. Giants management hired Garrett to be Judge’s offensive coordinator. Judge did get to hire defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, and that looks like a pretty good move. Graham has overachieved with the talent he has and received head coach interest last year and probably will again this year. If you were setting up a comedic long con, you’d absolutely let your bosses give you an obviously crap coach while making one of the better assistant hires of your coaching cycle.

Last season Joe Judge constantly berated his offensive line coach Marc Colombo, leading to an altercation that at the very least was verbal and was quite possibly physical, which deservedly led to Colombo being fired. Marc Colombo played offensive line for 10 years and is 6’8”. I can not think of a funnier “I’m the boss” move to do to your coaching staff than going up to the biggest coach and verbally humiliating him in front of everyone to the point of him eventually erupting on you. This is what would happen if you hired Borat as your coach.

Joe Judge also has to show his players that he is boss in ways that are equal parts strict disciplinarian and caricature. Judge has this down to a science. Run high injury risk Oklahoma-like drills during the season? He loves them. Have his players run the field for disciplinary reasons like a high school team? Done. Or better yet, start practice over? Yes sir.

In May the Giants signed Kelvin Benjamin, the former 1st round draft pick of current Giants GM Dave Gettlemen while Gettlemen was GM in Carolina. During the first day of camp practice Benjamin got into an argument with Judge and was immediately cut. Benjamin said he felt that Judge “had it out to get me since I walked into that team building” and that he felt that the whole thing was a hoax. Kelvin Benjamin knew! Having your boss bring in a guy he used to work with and then firing that guy almost immediately, that’s a great bit.

We haven’t even gotten to things that happened on the field!

The stubborn to a fault/traditionalist character has long been a comedic staple. In today’s NFL it is very easy to infuriate large portions of fans and media by being a coward through keeping it old school in the worst ways. This will also endear a small but vocal segment of the talking head population to guarantee that the coverage isn’t entirely one sided. Joe Judge’s in-game management is so consistently behind the times that it seems logical that he’s trying to be this bad.

Joe Judge has claimed “I’m not afraid to go for it on fourth down”. Ha. Judge is one of the biggest cowards on fourth down. In 31 games, he has shown up on the 90th percentile Surrender Index 22 times. In other words, just when it comes to punting, Joe Judge is an enormous coward an average of three times a month.

He also loves kicking short field goals on 4th and short. He had a 21 yard FG on 4th and 2 on the opening drive of his career, a 23 yard FG on 4th and 2 in a divisional game he lost by 1, and another 23 yard FG on 4th and 2 against the Chiefs. They’ve got Patrick Mahomes, you’ve got Daniel Jones, sure, FGs are going to win the game. More on that one in a moment. He has also attempted a 35 yard FG on 4th and 1, a 48 yard FG on 4th and 1, and a 53 yard FG on 4th and 1 that got him booed.

One might think that being a former special teams coach would be a factor, it makes sense that a guy who was in charge of punting and kicking would love to punt and kick. But John Harbaugh also comes from a special teams background and is one of the best coaches at fourth down management.

When Judge actually goes for it, well, it is pretty funny. Such as when he had a 4th down pass with just one WR on the field. Or the time he went for it on 4th and 1 from his own 29. Or how earlier in that Chiefs game where he kicked a 23 yard FG on 4th and 2, he went for it on 4th and goal from the 1 and scored a TD. In both cases he was only down a touchdown in the first half. 4th and 1 yard, go for it; 4th and 2 yards, send the kicker out. Timing is everything in comedy.

But to play the part Judge can’t just be laughably bad on fourth down and leave it at that. He’d have to do things like bench Mike Glennon for Jake Fromm then in the next game bench Jake Fromm for Mike Glennon. Or challenge a play that was automatically reviewed. Or in the first game of the season give top draft pick Kadarius Toney five snaps, three of which were the final three plays of a 27-13 loss.

For final and full commitment to the art, Judge would have to give some noteworthy press conferences and interviews. And of course, he has.

Joe Judge claimed his team’s headsets weren’t working throughout the season, something you should probably bring up right away. The NFL investigated and said they found no evidence for his claim. If this was happening repeatedly you would think he would prepare his team for it happening again, but he didn’t.

Judge told reporters “we’re gonna be alright guys” right before going 4-8 which to be fair was an improvement from an 0-4 start. He had a Philly-themed playlist for practice, then lost to Philly. Judge has also said that he hoped remembering the country’s response to the events of 9/11 would “help get us past all this crap we’re dealing with right now”.

There has been speculation that Judge might be fired at the end of the year, but those who cover the team feel that it’s more likely that the Giants will retain him and that ownership loves him. There’s no doubt that Joe Judge is aware of these rumors. If Judge was doing an act, it would make sense for him to turn it up a notch and see how far he can take this. Which brings us to this week. Yeah, all that and we haven’t even gotten to current events. Following his team’s pathetic loss to the Bears, Judge produced an eleven minute monologue that would have been best in front of a brick wall with a mic stand. Keeping up with trending events, he even pulled out a Brian Kelly-like fake accent.

Joe Judge claimed that players who left the team in the offseason call him twice a week and tell him they wish they would have stayed with the Giants for less money. It should be noted that only two players left the Giants for more than $2 million salary or a contract longer than one year: Kevin Zeitler (Ravens) and Davlin Tomlinson (Vikings). So basically this:

He also claimed that there are current Giants who will be free agents at the end of the season who “are in my office every day begging to come back.” Okay this one might be true. Teams are not going to be clamoring to sign guys from this team (again, only two guys got any kind of a pay day from last year’s team), I’d be begging for a contract too if I was a fringe player on the Giants.

Judge also took a shot at the Washington Football Team, who had two players go at each other on the sideline on Sunday. Judge said the Giants “ain’t some clown show organization.” On Wednesday Joe Judge declined to do the customary conference call with opposing teams beat reporters. This isn’t the first time he’s avoided questions from local media. After crying about the 2020 Eagles “disrespecting the game” for benching a QB who was 7 for 20 in a game the Eagles needed to win so that Judge’s 6-10 team could make the playoffs, he wanted no part of it prior to their first game this season. “I’d say anything in the past is irrelevant towards what’s going to happen this week.” Some might call that cowardice. Others might say that riling people up and then walking away from it is standard operating procedure for an act like the one Judge is playing.

Joe Judge is a comedic genius, creating a Tony Clifton-like character that will mystify us long after he’s gone. Or maybe Joe Judge is just really that bad of a coach.

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