Tension between Giants coach Joe Judge and fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo began over strategy and boiled over more than once before the ugly separation earlier this week, multiple sources told The Post.
The breaking point came during a typical weekly meeting where Colombo, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Judge were supposed to review film. Judge informed Colombo of the plan to add Dave DeGuglielmo to the offensive staff as a consultant, and a cursing-filled verbal confrontation ensued, escalating with Colombo using one particularly vulgar term.
But that term was not the impetus for the change. Colombo and Judge had been at odds behind the scenes for weeks over the decision to rotate offensive linemen and other forms of perceived micromanaging, sources said.
Colombo, who played 10 seasons in the NFL as an offensive tackle, is a firm believer in the traditional school of thought on continuity along the offensive line and wanted to stick with the five starters rather than risk creating communication confusion.
Judge ordered a rotation to get more young players experience — a page borrowed from mentor Bill Belichick’s playbook, with three rookies involved during the 2015 season. DeGuglielmo was the Patriots offensive line coach at the time.
Judge spoke publicly last week about wanting to rotate three guards the way the Giants had been rotating tackles. Instead, Matt Peart’s snaps at tackle were cut from 24 in back-to-back games to 10 and guard Will Hernandez did not leave the sideline until Kevin Zeitler’s fourth-quarter concussion.
The result — the Giants’ best offensive line performance of the season in a 27-17 victory — was interpreted two very different ways: As proof that sticking with starters through struggles will reap rewards, and as defiance of instruction.
The blowup behind closed doors was not the first between the coaches.
During a recent practice, Judge halted offensive line drills to correct a specific technique used by center Nick Gates. Colombo interjected and told Gates to keep doing it the way he was taught, according to two sources. It could be portrayed as an act of insubordination or as exerting expertise without a need for further involvement.
NFL Network first reported the incident with Gates as well as an incident where Judge criticized rookie Andrew Thomas during a film session and Colombo stepped in and swore at Judge. Two sources told The Post the Thomas incident never happened, but there was disagreement over whether to keep rotating out Thomas, who seems to be building confidence.
Though the deteriorating relationship came to a head Tuesday night, Colombo was not fired until arriving at the facility Wednesday morning because both parties walked away rather than making rash emotional decisions. The altercation did not get physical, multiple sources said.
DeGuglielmo coached Colombo during the latter’s final year and both interviewed for the job on Judge’s first staff.
Though Judge’s plan was to leave Colombo in charge of the offensive line and have DeGuglielmo work with the entire offense, having a coach looking over his shoulder was the writing on the wall that a change was coming sooner rather than later. The issue of whether Judge’s motives were truly Xs and Os based or just a way to assert control was a repeated sticking point, a source said.
Colombo was well-liked by players who see him as one of their own and there is uneasiness exacerbated by the timing of the long bye week and no return to practice until Monday about changes that could be ahead just as things started to click on the line, league sources said.
Firing a position coach midseason is seen as a last resort, however, and speaks to Judge’s mindset that trying to salvage continuity would be more detrimental to the team’s overall benefit.
This Post first appeared on “New York Post”