Joe Judge decided his own fate — now John Mara needs to make it official

Fifteen years ago, John Mara the human being versus John Mara the football man was a much easier fight for the football man to win. The Giants owner was debating whether to fire Tom Coughlin, who had gone one-and-done in the playoffs for a second straight year and had displayed a great talent for pissing off the players and the press.

Mara wanted more production out of the offense and more consistency out of young Eli Manning, but above all he wanted his head coach to stop making life miserable for everyone around him. The day after the 2006 season ended, when it appeared Coughlin wasn’t embracing the urgency of the moment, one team official heard Mara raise his voice in anger about potential consequences.

If Coughlin didn’t agree to make substantial changes in his draconian approach and become more user-friendly, Mara told me years later, he would have fired him. Coughlin ultimately informed his boss that he wanted to install a leadership council of veteran players to help him connect with the locker room. “If I could do cartwheels,” Mara said, “I would’ve done one that day.”

But in the end, Coughlin’s record on the field made him worth the trouble. He had done some big-time winning as a pro and college head coach (Jacksonville Jaguars, Boston College), and he’d already won the Giants a division title (at 11-5) in his first three seasons. He had earned the benefit of the doubt.

Joe Judge has earned no such thing. He had never held the top job anywhere when the Giants hired him out of left field two years ago, at age 38, as a former apprentice under Bill Belichick and Nick Saban who spoke of building a physically tenacious Giants program that would make Coughlin and Bill Parcells proud.

John Mara must make the call to fire Joe Judge, the Post's Ian O'Connor writes.
John Mara must make the call to fire Joe Judge, the Post’s Ian O’Connor writes.
AP, Getty

Two seasons later, his vision of fielding a team that would “punch you in the nose for 60 minutes” has been reduced to a punch line. He lost a starting quarterback who was 4-7 on the year, and 12-25 overall, and yet his team completely fell apart. The Giants were everything their coach swore they wouldn’t be — easy to block and easier to tackle. So it was fitting that Judge ran two clown-show plays in a season-ending loss to Washington, the division rival he’d called a clown-show organization.

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Truth is, Judge fired himself Sunday. He had the job for 2022, and he handed it right back. Mara was ready to allow him to finish 4-13 on top of last year’s 6-10, ready to give him a competent GM to work with in Year 3, and then Judge showed a shocking lack of judgment and awareness by running those damn quarterback sneaks.

The fans had been through hell for the better part of a decade, and after promising them a team that would mirror the blue-collar ethos of the region, Judge played a cruel hoax on them. He quit on those people rather than call for a couple of traditional handoffs and a punt, and in the process made a laughingstock of the franchise and the men who own it.

Those men, Mara and Steve Tisch, pressed Judge for explanations in a Monday afternoon meeting that was expected to lead to additional deliberations Tuesday. In an earlier press release announcing Dave Gettleman’s forced retirement, Tisch offered up the harshest quote of the bunch when he said, “It is an understatement to say John and I are disappointed by the lack of success we have had on the field.”

An Oscar-winning film producer, Tisch is tired of being embarrassed in front of his rich and famous friends. His presence in Monday’s meeting was worth noting. He is an equal partner, and he did once stop Mara’s brother Chris from becoming the team’s GM. If John doesn’t like Steve as much as his father Wellington liked Bob Tisch, he does respect Steve and does listen to him.

John Mara, Steve Tisch
John Mara, Steve Tisch
Robert Sabo

In the end, by the terms of their partnership, Mara will make the call on Judge. He will either fire the coach, keep him for another year, or keep him waiting until the new GM decides yes or no in the coming weeks.

Meaning this is now another case of Mara’s human side wrestling with Mara’s football side. A lot of owners would have fired Judge before he made it out to the parking lot Sunday night, just not Mara. Those of us who have covered the owner for a long time have seen his common decency, as they say, on and off the field. Everyone should want a boss who forever looks for reasons to keep people employed.

But Mara isn’t measuring the merits of Tom Coughlin here. Judge talked his way into this job, and then talked everyone into believing he would pave a path to long-term glory. In his 33rd game, the Giants coach showed the world that his sales pitch was a lie. Judge was his own judge and jury. He convicted himself.

John Mara just needs to sign the papers. Today.

Artmotion U.S.A

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