Giants' Mara On Joe Judge: 'There's Just Something About Him'

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When Matt Rhule's agent called Tuesday telling the Giants they would have to at least match the whopping offer the Carolina Panthers made to the then-Baylor coach, the response was an easy one: Thanks, but no thanks.

The Giants indeed liked Rhule and would've interviewed him as planned Tuesday. But co-owner and team president John Mara told WFAN's "Moose and Maggie" show Friday that there were two factors that made letting Rhule go to Carolina an "easy decision": the seven-year contract the Panthers had on the table -- which Mara felt was too long for a first-time NFL head coach -- and the fact that Patriots assistant Joe Judge wowed the Giants in an interview a day earlier.

Big Blue then made the decision to hire Judge, who was formally introduced Thursday.

"This was the most impressive interview that I've ever been a part of," Mara said.

"We believe we got the right guy."

Mara did admit if the Judge interview hadn't gone so well, the Giants might have still tried to negotiate with Rhule, who signed a $62 million deal with the Panthers. 

Joe Judge talks to the media after he was introduced as the new head coach of the New York Giants during a news conference at MetLife Stadium on January 9, 2020 in East Rutherford, New JerseyRich Schultz/Getty Images

Mara added that Mississippi State's offer to Judge to become its head coach accelerated the hiring process. The Giants canceled an interview with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after hiring Judge.

"He was under some pressure to make a decision for Mississippi State," Mara said of Judge. "They were putting some pressure on him to come to an agreement quickly."

Judge largely impressed at his introductory press conference Thursday, too, giving the media and Giants fans a taste of what the team's brass saw during his interview.

"The way he was in the press conference yesterday was exactly how he was in the interview this past Monday, and it was something that excited us quite a bit," Mara said. "And it was more about his poise and his presence, and you could see the leadership qualities in him and his knowledge about how to build a successful program. And obviously his training under the two greatest coaches of our era in Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. And there's just something about him that made us all take notice. And the more we spoke with him on Monday, the more excited we got about it. And by the time he left here late Monday afternoon -- I had one more session with him by myself in my office -- and I just knew we had found our guy at that point."

But Mara admitted he was even a bit surprised at how comfortable Judge was in front of the press. 

"If you looked at the way he handled yesterday's press conference, he hadn't had any media training that I know of, and we were concerned about that at first," he said. "And he walks right up on the podium there, and he just takes over the whole room."

The Giants co-owner said he also likes that Judge will disrupt the organization's status quo.

"He's coming in, he's 38 years old, he comes from a completely different organization," Mara said. "He was not a safe, comfortable pick. One of the things we were looking for quite frankly was somebody who was going to come in here and maybe make some people a little bit uncomfortable. What's gone on the last few  years is not acceptable anymore. We have to try a new way of doing things, and he's got some unique ideas about dealing with players and how you practice and the discipline factor and the leadership factor."

MARA ON FREE AGENCY

Despite that the Giants are expected to be $63 million under the salary cap when free agency begins in March, don't look for the them to be big spenders, Mara said.

"The thing with free agency, it's a double-edged sword," he said. "I mean, you can fix some holes pretty quickly, but long-term, I'm not sure that it really works. ... You still have to build your team through the draft. I think the best thing in free agency is it allows you to fill some needs so you can go into the draft and just take the best player available.

"If you think free agency is going to fix all your problems, you're going to be sadly disappointed. So yes, we do have probably the most space we've ever had before, but we're not going to go hog wild in there and spend it all. I think if you do that, you're making a big mistake. We're going to try to do it wisely, try to get the right guys in here, guys that we hope are going to be here for a while. But still, you have to emphasize the draft, and that's still the most important thing in building a franchise."

Those comments echoed what general manager Dave Gettleman told reporters about free agency last week.