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Joe Judge's run as assistant head coach for Bill Belichick is off to a rough start

BOSTON -- In the grand scheme of things, perhaps losing two OTA practice sessions is not the end of the world for the Patriots.

But for Joe Judge, the much-publicized punishment issued by the NFL for what was reportedly his error is certainly an inauspicious start to his new role as an assistant head coach for Bill Belichick.

According to Greg Bedard and Andrew Callahan, it was Joe Judge's scheduling error that led to the NFLPA taking note of the improper scheduling of a special teams meeting.

"Joe Judge -- referred to as Patriots' Special Teams Coach by the league in the documents -- conducted special teams meetings that caused offense and defense players to be at the facility longer than their maximum four hours," Bedard reported for Boston Sports Journal.

Callahan said the punishment -- the loss of two OTA sessions plus a $50,000 fine for Belichick -- came "because of scheduling errors caused by Joe Judge-led special teams meetings earlier this offseason."

Again, for the Patriots, this is bad but far from horrific. For Judge, though? It's embarrassing, for one. And it won't do much to get anyone in the region to believe the team has a capable coach in place as assistant head coach and (at least according to the NFL) special teams coach.

Judge, mind you, was a capable special teams coach under Bill Belichick from 2012-2019, first as an assistant and eventually as a coordinator. The positives essentially end there.

Judge added the duties of wide receivers coach to his job title in 2019, and the Patriots had one effective wide receiver in veteran Julian Edelman. The team's second-leading receiver was a running back -- James White -- who had just 645 receiving yards. Phillip Dorsett ranked second among receivers in yards with less than 400.

Judge wowed the New York Giants' brass in the following offseason and became the head coach. The Giants went 6-10 in his first year, then 4-13 in his second year, with Daniel Jones' career progress going backward, with the Giants running shameful QB sneaks on second-and-long and third-and-long, and with the franchise spiraling in a hurry. Judge was promptly fired, despite still having three years left on his contract.

That contract, though, allowed the Patriots to bring him aboard for short money, with the Giants still paying Judge that head coach salary.

Judge returned to the Patriots as an "offensive assistant" and "quarterbacks coach," despite lacking experience in those areas. It went terribly, to the point where Judge was "phased out" as a central figure in the offensive coaching staff by October, according to a story by Andrew Callahan and Karen Guregian.

That story painted a picture of unprecedented dysfunction in Foxboro.

"Judge also coached across positions in practice, forcing other assistants to occasionally correct his talking points to players during drills," the story said, also noting that players and coaches grew frustrated with Judge. "As [Matt] Patricia came under outside fire as the face of the offense, Judge drew increasing criticism from within. Belichick would blast him in practice, and it wasn't uncommon for Judge and [Mac] Jones to trade profanity-laced outbursts. Jones' trust in his position coach was effectively non-existent.

The story also included these two quotes:

"Judge would speak extra loudly in meetings, trying to project like he was the guy.And I think that kind of rubbed people the wrong way."

"A lot of people were frustrated with [Judge]."

Mac Jones, by several accounts, sought coaching from the outside, because the coaching he was getting from his position coach was unsatisfactory. 

Devin McCourty -- a longtime Patriots team captain, a three-time Super Bowl champion, and a future team hall of famer playing in what would end up being his final NFL season -- even spoke on national TV about how he had talked with a Giants player who felt the vibes were much better with Judge out of the building. (The Giants went from 4-13 with Judge to 9-7-1 and a playoff victory in the first year after he was fired.)

All of that happened, and though a real offensive coordinator in Bill O'Brien was hired to replace the failed Patricia/Judge duo, Judge was not only retained but promoted. Per Bedard, Judge is now an assistant head coach.

This is all under the watchful eye of a head coach who stresses that each and every decision he makes is made based on "what's best for the team." It's fair to question what Judge has done in the past four years to earn added responsibilities and what seems like endless trust from Belichick.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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