Joe Judge is headed to the Giants as their next head coach. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.
Highly thought of inside the building at One Patriot Place, Judge was trusted to take on the responsibilities of both the special teams coordinator and receivers coach in 2019 as the coaching staff underwent a series of changes before the season.
Judge joined the staff in 2012 as a special teams assistant to Scott O'Brien and served in that role for three seasons. He took over the coordinator's role in 2015 and then added receiver responsibilities last year.
In Judge's five seasons as special teams coordinator, his kicking units were graded by Pro Football Focus as 8th, 1st, 10th, 5th and 7th in football. According to Rick Gosselin's special teams rankings — rankings that Bill Belichick has referred to multiple times over the years for their ability to compile metrics from all units and package them together for a relatively accurate, all-encompassing view — Judge's units ranked 3rd, 6th, 3rd, and 10th from 2015-2018.
Judge also watched Stephen Gostkowski become the franchise's all-time leading scorer, he helped Matthew Slater win two first-team All-Pro nods, and he helped rookie punter Jake Bailey quickly establish himself as one of the best at his position this season while also taking on kickoff duties with Gostkowski out injured. The Patriots also blocked four punts this season, a new team record.
Judge taking the Giants gig means one less job on the table for Josh McDaniels to potentially scoop up. He was scheduled to interview with the Giants for the second time in three years later this week. McDaniels was also a candidate for the Panthers job, which went to Matt Rhule on Tuesday.
With Judge gone, though, Bill Belichick will have to replace one of the most valuable pieces on his staff.
On special teams, Cam Achord looks like the favorite to replace Judge. He's been with the Patriots for two seasons, joining in 2018 as Judge's assistant. Achord spent five seasons with Southwest Mississippi Community College as offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends coach.
With the receiver, the Patriots could turn to a name that would be much more familiar to fans of the organization. Troy Brown joined the staff in the spring to assist with receivers and returners, and he maintained that role throughout training camp and through the season.
He spent significant amounts of time with young receivers, in particular, trying to get rookies N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski up to speed. He also worked closely with Mohamed Sanu and Antonio Brown when they joined the team mid-season. With Judge's responsibilities split between two units, Brown had plenty on his plate in his first year in pro coaching.
The Patriots could potentially turn to another familiar face at the receiver spot. Former receivers coach Chad O'Shea left the team last year to join the Dolphins as their new offensive coordinator. But after one season in Miami, the Dolphins parted ways with O'Shea. With a staff and front office that could use reinforcements this offseason, would the Patriots be open to bringing O'Shea back into the fold?
That remains to be seen. But with Judge taking off for New York, the Patriots have some work to do to fill his multiple roles.