Actions, as the old proverb goes, speak louder than words. In Bill Belichick’s case, however, the actions and words perfectly align to send a pretty clear message how he feels about Joe Judge: Belichick thinks pretty highly of Judge.
The action part of that is obvious. The New England Patriots brought Judge back into the fold on Wednesday after his two-year stint as head coach of the New York Giants.
Belichick giving his former assistant another chance is nothing new. He already did the same with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who left to coach the Denver Broncos in 2009 but returned just three years later. Last year, he also brought another unsuccessful head coach back: ex-Detroit Lions HC Matt Patricia, who was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator under Belichick from 2012 through 2017.
Unlike McDaniels, however, Patricia received a new job upon his return. He is no longer coordinating the defense but instead serving as a senior football advisor; Patricia’s role has him involved in coaching as well as front office matters.
Judge will be on the Patricia plan as well, at least partially. The 40-year-old was not brought back to fill the jobs he held from 2015 to 2019. Instead of working as special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach — a role he had during the 2019 season on top of his kicking game duties — Judge will serve as an offensive assistant.
Time will tell what kind of responsibility his rather vague title will entail, but one thing is obvious: Belichick feels strongly about Judge’s abilities as a coach, and trusts him to work on the offensive side of the ball despite a relative lack of experience.
The Patriots and their head coach trusting Judge to do more than just coach one particular unit or position group is nothing new, however. Back in 2014, for example, he was involved in the pre-draft process and played a role in the team finding undrafted rookie cornerback and future Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler.
As for the message sent through actual words spoken by the future Hall of Fame head coach, one only has to go back to last summer. During joint practices with the Judge-led Giants, Belichick spoke highly of his former (and future) assistant.
“Joe’s a good football coach, period. All the things that a good coach needs to do, Joe does,” Belichick said last August.
“He did a great job here for me in a number of different capacities. Most importantly, special teams, but he had a lot of other responsibilities as well. When I gave him something to do, he did a good job of it, and so that led to other things. I know he’s a very accomplished football coach. He has a good understanding of the game and how to coach it.”
Belichick singing Judge’s praise was nothing new at that point. Throughout the 2019 season and up until his hire by the Giants, he did the same — regularly mentioning how good of a job he would be doing with New England’s special teams unit and wide receiver group.
“He’s done a great job with the kicking game,” Belichick said in December 2019, for example.
“He’s expanded the role a little bit and that’s kind of had a little bit of a ripple effect in the way we’ve organized the kicking game, but that’s all worked out pretty efficiently. Joe’s done a good job of organizing that, as well as taking care on some other things with the offense and particularly receivers. So, he’s done a good job. He’s an excellent coach.”
Judge did not live up to Belichick’s praise over the last two seasons, going just 10-23 with the Giants. However, he has now gotten another chance to rebuild his image and in turn help the Patriots stay on track even after losing Josh McDaniels yet again.