Sometime after the Bears forced Giants quarterback Mike Glennon to fumble on the first play from scrimmage, then intercepted one of his passes on the second drive Sunday came a scary thought: That might be them in two years.
That absolutely should frighten the Bears. And management should take every measure, starting next week, to make sure it doesn’t come to pass.
With their starting quarterback out for the last month and no incentive to win, the Giants — who own their first-round pick and the Bears’ in the draft next spring — looked every bit like the worst team in football Sunday. The Bears’ first five victories of the season came by a combined 27 points, but they beat the Giants by 26.
The 29-3 victory at plenty-of-good-seats-available Soldier Field means nothing to the Bears, other than being a cautionary tale.
In 2019, the Giants drafted Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick. After Jones had an inept rookie season paired with an offensive-minded head coach — sound familiar? — the Giants set out to hire a new head coach.
Their choice was Patriots special-teams coordinator and receivers coach Joe Judge, who never had been a head coach at any level. Only 38 at the time, Judge had been either a special-teams assistant or a special-teams coordinator at every stop in his 15-year career. His expertise didn’t align with the Giants’ main challenge, which was developing Jones at quarterback.
The Giants hired Judge despite having an interview lined up with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who could have done just that. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, whom they interviewed, could have, too.
The Giants weren’t the first team to get their head-coaching hire wrong — the Bears will replace Matt Nagy in a week — but the McCaskeys need to learn from their mistake. Judge had nothing in his history that would have led the Giants to believe he was the man to develop a quarterback. He had been a special-teams assistant at Alabama and a special-teams coordinator — with one season as a receivers coach — with the Patriots. The Giants were lured in by the two name brands, not by Judge’s area of expertise.
Despite his eventual failures, Nagy at least had quarterback development on his résumé; Judge did not.
Later this month, the Bears need to hire a coach who will make sure quarterback Justin Fields doesn’t fail in Year 2 — or beyond. That shouldn’t limit them to offensive candidates, but anyone who’s not an offensive coach better have a thorough plan. Judge’s was to hire former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator, but Garrett was fired after 26 games, during which the Giants scored fewer offensive touchdowns than any team in the NFL.
Through three seasons — two with Judge — Jones has won less than a third of his career starts and has a passer rating of 84.3. A neck injury in Week 12 ended his season prematurely, forcing Glennon to bumble his way through the Giants’ final month of games. Glennon’s showing Sunday — 4-for-11, 24 yards, two interceptions, four fumbles (two lost) — was, without hyperbole, one of the worst quarterback performances of the season.
Perhaps it’s impossible to separate the Giants’ failure to develop a quarterback with their failure to find the right coach. But that’s the point: One drags down the other.
At the end of his news conference Sunday, Judge was asked why he had faith he was going to turn around the Giants’ fortunes. He responded with a 2,689-word screed that lasted about 11 minutes.
He defended the Giants’ culture — ‘‘This ain’t a team that’s having fistfights on the sidelines,’’ he said, referring to Washington last week — and the way his players have kept battling in a lost season. Other teams have golf clubs in the locker room and are planning vacations, he said, but the Giants aren’t.
Judge said he knows the pressure that comes with coaching in New York.
‘‘If we don’t play well, every fan has the right to boo my ass out of the stadium,’’ he said. ‘‘You got that? That don’t bother me.’’
The Giants’ struggles aren’t rooted in effort, however, or in what their fans think; it’s the quarterback. The answer to how to turn around a struggling franchise is almost always the quarterback.
The Bears need to acknowledge that and prioritize the skills required of their next coach appropriately. Will chairman George McCaskey do that?
Amid his rambling answer, one thing Judge said rang true. It was about the Giants, but it should sound familiar to Bears fans. And it should scare them.
‘‘The toughest thing to change in a team, the toughest thing to change in a club, is the way people think,’’ he said. ‘‘You understand that?’’