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Rhule decides to take Panthers job, so Giants counter with Judge

Matt Rhule

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

When the New York media went to bed last night, it figured the Giants might begin Tuesday by naming their next head coach. And according to most everyone it talked to, it seemed that person likely would be Baylor’s Matt Rhule,  who was due in town to talk to the team.

Rhule was a New York City native. Rhule respected the Giants organization. Rhule even worked for the Giants in 2012 as an assistant offensive line coach for Tom Coughlin. The Giants loved everything about Rhule. It all seemed to make perfect sense.

But Rhules are made to be broken. Before the Giants could get him coffee, the Panthers had intervened, offering him a seven-year, $60 million deal that does not even take into account the $6 million contract buyout the team would owe Baylor.

“We met last night. Things happen very fast,” Rhule told ESPN Central Texas radio Tuesday. “In that conversation the things that are important to me are important to them. The decision was a really, really hard one.”

Apparently, Rhule then called the Giants to see if they would be interested in matching the offer. The Giants declined. So Rhule canceled his visit and accepted Carolina’s offer to succeed Ron Rivera.

That did not slow the Giants down, however. After making the decision not to get into a bidding war for Rhule, the team moved on, signing Joe Judge, 38, an assistant who had worked for both Nick Saban at Alabama and since 2012 for Bill Belichick with the Patriots.

Joe Judge

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Judge is just the latest Patriots assistant coach to get a head coaching job. In the last two years, Matt Patricia (Lions) and Brian Flores (Dolphins) had left Belichick’s lair. And now his former special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach has joined the group.

While Rhule’s name has been mentioned about as a potential coach for the last two seasons, Judge comes out of the blue. But it is clear Belichick respected him enough to add the receivers position to his work load before the 2019 season.

The reason Belichick probably did was to increase Judge’s visibility. Special teams coordinators rarely are hired directly as head coaches. Andy Reid did the same thing for John Harbaugh when they worked together in Philadelphia. Harbaugh, a special teams coach, was promoted to defensive backs coach, which helped generate interest from the Ravens, who hired him as their coach in 2008.

Judge had an offer to take the head coaching position at his alma mater, Mississippi State, but obviously knew coaching the Giants was the much better job.

Meanwhile, Panthers owner David Tepper flew to Waco, Tex., on Monday to meet with Rhule’s family. According to the NFL Network, Tepper wanted him so badly he did everything he could to prevent the coach from flying to New Jersey.

Rhule’s star really rose after taking over Baylor’s scandal-riddled program in 2017 and quickly turning it around. The Bears went from 1-11 in 2017 to 11-3 in 2019. Two of those losses this season were to Oklahoma, which went on to the College Football Playoff.

“I came here for a purpose,” Rhule said. “I felt like I was called here for much more than just coming to coach football. I felt like I was here more than anything else to get the football program back in line with the university. I know we’ve done that. I felt like we had really done that after the first year. What I walked into was a disgrace. It was really, really bad. We fixed that. I’m at peace with it. I hope the players are too.”

Before Baylor, Rhule had also transformed Temple’s program. The Owls were 2-10 in 2013 and 10-3 in 2016.

The Panthers, who had never hired a coach from the collegiate ranks, were 5-11 in 2019 and have had three losing seasons since going to the Super Bowl after finishing 15-1 in 2015.

“The football part of it for me is trying to go coach and compete at the highest level,” Rhule said. “It’s really about nothing else. It’s not about money or fame. It’s about having a chance of everyone having the same rules, everyone having the same players, being at the highest level.”

Before hiring Rhule, the Panthers had interviewed Mike McCarthy, who became coach of the Cowboys on Monday. They also spoke to Chiefs offensive coordinator  Eric Bieniemy and had been scheduled to meet with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Tuesday, their interim coach Perry Fewell on Wednesday and Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski on Thursday.

Judge interviewed with the Giants on Monday. ESPN reported the team is interested in speaking for former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett about being its offensive coordinator.