Twice since the last time they got it right, the Giants got it wrong.
This time, with Joe Judge as their head coach, it has felt right.
For the first time since 2004 — when Tom Coughlin was hired and went on to coach 12 seasons, putting two Lombardi trophies inside the glass-enclosed trophy case in the lobby of the Giants training facility — it feels like ownership has chosen the right head coach.
The fact that Judge isn’t preparing the Giants for one of the six playoff games scheduled for this weekend, instead finishing 6-10 and out of the postseason for the fourth consecutive season and eighth in the past nine might, might not back that up.
But this feels different from the previous two post-Coughlin hires.
Ben McAdoo, even when he took the Giants to the playoffs in his first season (2016) with Coughlin’s players, never felt right since that awkward introductory press conference, when it looked like he was wearing a suit for the first time.
McAdoo lasted just 12 games into his second season (2-10) before being fired. When a coach is fired just 12 games after an 11-5 season in which his team went to the playoffs, something is very wrong inside the building, specifically inside the locker room.
Enter Pat Shurmur.
After having interviewed Shurmur in Minnesota as the Giants were about to hire him in 2018, I was convinced he possessed the perfect temperament for the demanding New York market. As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Shurmur proved to have some of the thinnest skin of any New York coach in recent memory.
Along with his rabbit ears and defensive demeanor, Shurmur’s 5-11 and 4-12 finishes in 2018 and 2019 doomed him.
Judge, who was hired despite having never been a head coach, has pushed most of the right buttons so far. It is early in his tenure, and 6-10 is 6-10, so we can end up being all wrong about this, but the vibe around the team tells you there’s a lot more respect for the head coach in the building than there was for the previous two men occupying the office.
Giants co-owner John Mara liked everything he saw in Judge during the interview process last year. But how do you really know how a first-time head coach will work out until he’s faced with the challenges?
It was when those challenges arrived — unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 presented — when Mara was blown away by his rookie head coach.
“It was Joe’s ability to adapt so quickly to the ever-changing circumstances we faced this season — a first-time head coach with no OTA’s, no minicamps, all virtual meetings, no preseason games,’’ Mara told The Post on Wednesday. “All of this while [he was] installing a new offense and new defense with a lot of young players. Then we had protocols that were constantly changing. Nothing seemed to faze him. He just adapted and moved forward.
“The other pleasant surprise about Joe is the way he dealt with the social-justice issues. He took the initiative with the players to stress how important it is to work to make a difference in our communities. He organized nine different groups, each dedicated to a different borough of New York or section of New Jersey.
“This was an example of Joe’s leadership and seeing the big picture.’’
Earlier, in a Zoom call with reporters, Mara said he thought Judge “represented our franchise very well, the way I want our head coach to represent our franchise. … I thought he established a great foundation and a great culture.’’
Judge needs to turn that good culture into more wins in 2021, starting with at least nine or 10 and a playoff berth. So, if we’re being fair, the praise must be tempered until we gather more information.
We should not ignore the fact that, after the upset win in Seattle got the Giants to 5-7 and in control of the NFC East, they went on to lose their next three games and were barely competitive in any of them to lose that control. So, amid all the good things Judge showed in his first year, that disappointing stretch is a part of his story, too.
In the bigger picture, having Judge leading this team feels like a positive, constructive restart for Mara and the Giants.
“Obviously, I’m not pleased with the number of games we won,’’ Mara said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. We had every opportunity to do that. I’m disappointed we couldn’t do better than 6-10, but I do see progress. I’m excited about the future.’’