The Giants spent five long years trying to improve their offensive line — then fired the position coach just as it started to happen.
Weeks of feuding over strategy and teaching boiled over when Joe Judge fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo and hired replacement Dave DeGuglielmo from outside the organization. The unusual in-season move created immediate uneasiness at a position dependent on chemistry and disrupted by reduced practice time, in-game rotation of players and now a coaching change.
Because Judge and Colombo butted heads over technique, is DeGuglielmo going to force major changes on the linemen?
“We’re not going to do anything to turn the offense upside down,” Judge said in his first comments since the change. “There will be some adjustments here and there. With six weeks left in the season, there’s going to be a lot of continuity we’re looking to keep in place and keep improving.”
Judge informed Colombo of his intention to add DeGuglielmo as an offensive consultant last Tuesday. A curse-filled verbal confrontation ensued (during which Colombo used a particularly nasty term), both parties walked away and Colombo was fired at the facility Wednesday morning.
Colombo was stopped at the parking gate and a misunderstanding occurred during which he thought he was being escorted to meet with Judge but instead was fired inside by security, sources told The Post. Giants management reportedly wanted it handled that way to avoid another altercation.
Improving the line has been owner John Mara’s No. 1 on-field goal since the Tom Coughlin era ended. Rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas’ last three games were his best, and the rushing attack is averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the last five games.
“The decision we made was in the best interest of the New York Giants,” Judge said, “short and long term.”
Judge claimed there “has been a lot of misinformation out there” but did not refute specific details.
“I think there is some common sense that people … understand what does and doesn’t actually happen within a professional setting and office building,” Judge said. “This was a professional move.”
Judge reportedly took on a bigger role with the offensive line in recent practices, but sources said it wasn’t overly noticeable, other than a stoppage to correct center Nick Gates’ technique that led to a spat between Judge and Colombo in front of the team. It was perceived as insubordination, similar to how the addition of DeGuglielmo was interpreted as undermining Colombo’s authority.
“I have no problem at any point stepping in and talking to a position,” Judge said. “That being said, I let my coaches coach.”
While most of Judge’s staff are former colleagues or friends of friends, Colombo came with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett from the Dallas Cowboys. How will firing the Garrett-endorsed Colombo impact the Judge-Garrett relationship?
“We’re all professionals here,” Judge said. “We all have one goal in terms of improving the team. There’s been no effect to that nature. I feel good about going forward with everybody.”
An NFL Network report suggested that Judge and some other ex-New England Patriots assistants on staff “exuded an alarming aura of haughtiness” in making the case that their way is best.
“The notion that we are concerned about anywhere else we’ve been … everyone has experiences you draw on. That would be it,” Judge said. “There is no internal division or struggle or anything else being referenced right there that anyone is trying to create. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Tight end Evan Engram and defensive lineman Leonard Williams — the only players available to the media Monday — expressed surprise at the midseason change. Judge did not wait until after the bye week to address uncertainty with players, holding individual, group and team meetings.
DeGuglielmo has been out of the NFL at the start of three of the last eight seasons. He was an in-season replacement for the Miami Dolphins in 2017 but he has been fired by two of Judge’s friends — Bill Belichick and Brian Flores — and five of his last six stops lasted just one year.
DeGuglielmo is known in league circles to have a no-sugarcoating personality. Not a concern for Judge, who saw DeGuglielmo in action with the Patriots in 2014-15, when they rotated young linemen as the Giants are doing.
“I have been around moves as a player and a coach where there have been transitions in season,” Judge said. “The biggest thing is to keep on moving within the direction of the head coach and trust there is a plan in place.”