Happy birthday, Joe Judge! The New York Giants coach turned 39 on New Year’s Eve. He’s still younger than Eli Manning, however, as Manning turns 40 on Sunday. The day is not only Judge’s birthday, but also wraps up a turbulent 2020 that wasn’t easy on the Giants. Still, despite all the challenges, there’s been some improvement compared to previous seasons.
Over the past few years, the team has been forgettable by this point in the year, but right now the Giants still have a chance to make it into the playoffs with a win on Sunday.
Joe Judge on his plans for New Year's Eve, also his birthday: "Yeah, it’s going to be a wild night, man. Break down tape, get tomorrow’s practice finalized, try to get a little bit of sleep. We’re rolling through it. The good news is it’s going to be 2021 for an entire year."
— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) December 31, 2020
2020 was a year that began with intrigue for the Giants. Pat Shurmur was out and Joe Judge was hired in early January to replace him. The hire brought mixed reviews, thanks to his relative lack of experience compared to a typical new head coach. He had no track record as an offensive or defensive coordinator, but had rave reviews from both Bill Belichick and Nick Saban.
And it was clear that this was a last chance for Dave Gettleman. The assumption was that he would be gone at the start of the year but he remained in place, and the Giants made a flurry of free agency moves. They added both James Bradberry and Blake Martinez in the spring, and it looks like both players have found long term spots as elite members of the defense.
When the season actually came around, the Giants were faced with a big losing streak to start the season. It looked like more of the same, and like the team would quickly be out of the playoff hunt. Just as bad was their injury situation, as they had very quickly lost top running back Saquon Barkley for the year with an ACL tear. Draft pick Xavier McKinney would also go down long term, before the season even began.
But somehow, the Giants have found themselves in the playoff mix regardless. And going into 2021, they still haven’t been eliminated. This season hasn’t exactly been a good one for the Giants by the typical standards of a good season. However, it’s undoubtedly been a big improvement on what they were.
No one thought after the first half of the season that this team would still be in contention come January. And that’s right where the Giants are right now. It remains to be seen what 2021 will bring, but for the first time in a few years, there’s reasons beyond just hopeful optimism to believe the team is going in a good direction.