Three writers break down the 20-member staff that Joe Judge put together in his first year as head coach.
John Schmeelk: Joe Judge's coaching staff is interesting because of the variety of backgrounds and experiences on the staff. There are older coaches with a college background, like running backs coach Burton Burns. There are others with NFL head coaching experience, like offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens. Outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema coached two major college programs (Wisconsin and Arkansas) before working for the Patriots.
While there are a lot of connections to Alabama and New England due to Judge's history, the offensive staff features coaches with connections to Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys. Offensive line coach Marc Colombo played offensive line there and coached the offensive line the last two years. Derek Dooley, a senior offensive assistant, coached wide receivers for Dallas but was also the head coach at Tennessee and the offensive coordinator for Missouri.
The defensive staff features the same kind of variety. Inside linebacker coach Kevin Sherrer spent time at Georgia and Tennessee, while defensive backs Jerome Henderson played for Bill Parcells and has coached for the Falcons the last four seasons. Defensive line coach Sean Spencer comes from Penn State.
This diversity of experience means there should be a lot of fresh ideas and different perspectives in the room when the schemes and playbooks are developed on both sides of the ball. There should be no shortage of ideas or varied ways of thinking.
The three position coaches I am keeping an eye on are Colombo, Sherrer and Henderson. The offensive line is more dependent on its players working together to be an effective unit than any other position group. Coaching is critical for that group to work as one to handle all the blitzes, twists and stunts defenses throw at them.
Inside linebackers call the plays and often make adjustments to the defense pre-snap. They are charged with organizing things and play a huge role defending the middle of the field in the pass game. It requires a deep understanding of passing concepts and how opponents are trying to attack. Good coaching is essential there.
Finally, a mistake or missed assignment in the secondary can quickly lead to a touchdown. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is for the secondary to be on the same page and for each player to fulfill his assignment correctly on every play. For a defense to be successful, the defensive backs need to cover well and be assignment-sound, which will be Henderson's responsibility.
It will be fun to see how all of this manifests itself on the field when the players arrive for the offseason program in April.
Dan Salomone: When you win three Super Bowls and two national championships in 10 years, you would be foolish not to reunite as many former colleagues as possible when assembling your first coaching staff. But this is much more than a collection of Belichick and Saban disciples. It's diversified.
Judge, who was very deliberate in the process and left no stone unturned, brought together nine coaches who arrived from other NFL teams, five who spent the 2019 season coaching collegiate football, and six who were with the Giants last year. The list includes former head coaches at every level.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (Cowboys) and tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens (Browns) led NFL teams. Senior offensive assistant Derek Dooley (Tennessee, Louisiana Tech) and outside linebackers coach/senior assistant Bret Bielema (Wisconsin, Arkansas) have guided major college programs. Quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski served as the head coach at Trinity High School in Ohio, and 10 years later, he was in the quarterbacks room with Tom Brady. Head coach was not a prerequisite to get a job on Judge's staff, but "that ended up being a plus."
Another intriguing aspect of the staff is the handful of assistants who have now worked on both sides of the ball. Defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Patrick Graham once upon a time coached tight ends at Richmond. Offensive quality control coach Bobby Blick was a defensive assistant for the Giants. Defensive line coach Sean Spencer started his career with running backs at Shippensburg. Defensive assistant Jody Wright was an offensive analyst at Alabama, passing game coordinator and tight ends coach at Jacksonville State, and offensive line coach/assistant head coach at UAB. Because of the diversified resumes, Judge believes they can connect with every single player on the roster.
"I wanted to find guys with different types of energy to bring to the building and bring different types of life to really reach every guy on the team and get the most out of them," Judge said in Giants Life: Blueprint. "And I believe we've done that. … I'll tell you what, we got them in here recently in the last couple of weeks and there's definitely a different energy in the building. It's great having them in here. We're having a lot of fun working and going forward and getting a whole lot done. It's been exciting so far."
View photos of the 2020 New York Giants coaching staff
Lance Medow: One of the best things a first-time head coach can do is surround himself with experience he may not have at this point in his career and that's exactly what Joe Judge did in rounding out his staff. That's why my biggest takeaway is that of the 20 members of the coaching staff, four have previously been head coaches with two on the NFL level (Jason Garrett and Freddie Kitchens) and two others on the collegiate level (Derek Dooley and Brett Bielema). That's a wealth of experience Judge can turn to.
While Judge has been around football for quite some time, there is a significant difference between the responsibilities a position coach/coordinator has versus a head coach and those extra tasks that come with being a head man often have nothing to do with x's and o's. For example, when you're a head coach, you have to meet with the media much more, deal with the logistics of scheduling, structure/setup of the practice facility and off the field issues, as well as meet with the general manager. When you have assistants who have been in that position before, they can serve as a resource for advice and handle tasks when you may have other items to tackle. Case in point, if you look at some recent NFL first-time head coaches, it's no coincidence when Sean McVay was first named Rams' head man, he hired Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator, or when Doug Pederson landed the Eagles job, he brought in Jim Schwartz as his defensive coordinator. Both Phillips and Schwartz were previously NFL head coaches.
As far as the rest of the coaching staff goes, I think Judge assembled a nice mix. He has seven coaches who worked with him previously or coached him, so there is a trust factor; six holdovers from Pat Shurmur's staff, which provides for some continuity and resources for feedback on what worked and what didn't last season. There are also four assistants who worked under Garrett in Dallas, which provides for even more continuity. It goes without saying the head coach is a critical position, but the staff under him is responsible for a lot of heavy lifting and that staff will have a huge say in the direction of the team moving forward.