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Giant surprise: New York hires Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge as head coach

NFC East News

NFL: MAY 25 Patriots OTA Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Depending on which spin you take from the Twitter reports, the Giants either got their man, or they had to settle for the alternate when Matt Rhule signed a reported 7-year contract with the Panthers that the Giants apparently were not willing to match.

The new head coach of the Giants is Joe Judge, the Special Teams Coordinator in New England, where he worked for eight years. The reports of his hiring brought mixed responses from a Giants fan base that seemed taken off-guard by the development.

Judge is relatively young at 38 and has no head coaching experience at any level, however he has been a part of three of the PatriotsSuper Bowl championship teams and was on Coach Nick Saban’s staff during two of the University of Alabama’s recent national championship seasons. It has been reported that Bill Belichick has given him glowing recommendations.

Of course, being a former Belichick assistant isn’t the gold-seal of approval that many might expect. While the dark lord of New England may be incredibly successful, his former apprentices have a spottier history as head coaches.

The Giants announcement came immediately after the news broke that Matt Rhule was joining the Panthers, and seemed a bit sudden, since the organization had an interview still scheduled with Josh McDaniels. Albert Breer, who has had only positive things to say about the hiring of Judge, reported via Twitter that the Giants had to move quickly to get their man because he was being seriously considered for the head coaching position at Mississippi State.

Last week, the Giants interviewed the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy; the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Don Martindale; the former Green Bay Packers Coach Mike McCarthy; and the Dallas Cowboys assistant Kris Richard.

With so many high-profile names in the mix, there is a bit of “who’s that?” factor in the Joe Judge hire. Special Teams coordinators, after all, rarely get a lot of name recognition or traction with regard to head coaching positions.

Still, there is solid precedent. John Harbaugh had been, mostly, a special teams coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles before being hired by the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. (He also spent one season as a defensive backs coach to broaden his coaching experience.) Harbaugh was thought of as an equally boring head coaching choice at the time he was hired. That has worked out pretty well: He has one Super Bowl win with the Ravens and has them perhaps poised for another as the AFC’s No. 1 seed entering Saturday night’s playoff meeting with the Tennessee Titans.

Related: Numerous reports say that Mike McCarthy is the new head coach of the Cowboys

With Judge going to New York, the re-making of the NFC East coaching ranks is complete, with the only survivor being Philadelphia’s 51-year-old Doug Pederson, who is now one of three veteran head coaches in the division, but the only one who has been on the sidelines as a head coach in the division previously. The Eagles won the division title, but were eliminated from the playoffs by the Seahawks in the opening round.

In addition to Judge, who is now the youngest head coach in the division, being hired in New York, Dallas hired 56-year-old Mike McCarthy, formerly of the Green Bay Packers — a hiring that was announced on Sunday — while the Redskins were the first team in the league to announce a coaching hire, the 58-year-old former Carolina Panthers coach, Ron Rivera. The NFC East now has three established head coaches and one relative newcomer to determine the direction of four franchises that each often appeared rudderless during 2019.

After a miserable season in which the division went 12-28 versus non-division opponents, all three coaches whose teams did not make the playoffs were relieved of their duties. Jay Gruden was fired by the Redskins after opening the season 0-5. Pat Shurmur was fired after just two seasons as the head coach of the Giants, and Jason Garrett ended his tenure as head coach of the Cowboys after holding his job from 2010 to 2019.

It seems clear that all four teams in the NFC East will be trying to make significant improvements this off-season. News about coaching staffs, free agency and the draft is likely to continue to flow in the coming weeks and months.