John Mara Explains Why the Team Called an Audible on Interviewing Matt Rhule
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – To be clear, the Giants team ownership brass—president John Mara and chairman Steve Tisch—are very pleased and confident regarding their decision to name 38-year-old Joe Judge as the 19th head coach in franchise history.
But as the two business partners celebrated the dawn of a new era for the franchise, a question remained why the Giants, whom Mara had promised would conduct a comprehensive head coaching search, didn’t follow through on plans to meet with now-former Baylor head coach and now Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, who was scheduled to meet with the team the day after Judge had his interview.
The main reason, according to Mara, is that in Judge, whom he called “one of the most impressive head coaching interviews I’ve ever done,” the feeling was that the team had found the right man for the job.
The other reason, though, when it came to shifting gears regarding a meeting with Rhule, who was believed to be just as interested in the Giants’ job as the Giants were in him, was that the Giants weren’t about to match the seven-year offer Rhule received from Carolina.
“We still were going to interview Matt just because he was planning on coming in, and he was somebody we were interested in,” Mara confirmed Thursday after the team formally introduced Judge as its new head coach at the MetLife Stadium Coaches Club.
“His agent called me early Tuesday morning to say that he had a deal in place. It was a seven-year deal. I had a brief conversation with Steve (Tisch) and (general manager) Dave (Gettleman), and we agreed that we were not going there for a number of reasons. One, we weren’t going with a seven-year deal with anybody. But more importantly, we had somebody we were excited about. So, we went ahead and made Joe the coach.”
Besides the length being off-putting for the Mara-Tisch partnership, particularly given that Rhule, despite his head coaching experience at the collegiate level, would be a first-time NFL head coach, Mara said that Judge blew ownership and Gettleman away.
What convinced Mara that Judge was the right person for the job?
“I just think the more he went on answering our questions and talking about his vision and what he believes a successful program has to look like, and just the way he’s a teacher,” he said. "He grew up believing that you have to be a teacher to be successful in this business. Talking about his experiences with Coach (Bill) Belichick, his experiences with Coach (Nick) Saban. I don’t think there was one specific moment, but the longer we talked, the more excited we got about him.”
While Mara admitted that investing seven years in a first-time head coach gave him and Tisch pause, he conceded that there is a risk to bringing in Judge, who reportedly signed a five-year contract.
“There are always risks when you hire a coach who’s never been a head coach before,” Mara said. “But I think as you could see in there, I’m just excited about what he brings to the table here. He has a certain poise and presence about him.
“I’m just telling you, that’s the best interview I’ve ever been a part of right now for a lot of different reasons. When you train under Nick Saban and then you end up on Bill Belichick’s staff, that’s something you take notice of. He’s obviously had great training, a great background. He’s used to winning, he knows what winning looks like, and we’re excited to have him here.”