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The season is barely in the rearview mirror and the Giants have already made a significant signing to push them into the New Year.
Patrick Graham, the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach who earned raves from his players and denied points to opposing offenses, is not going anywhere. He signed a contract extension and the team announced Tuesday night Graham has decided not to consider head-coaching opportunities for 2021.
The Jets merely a day after firing Adam Gase reached out to the Giants, asking permission to interview Graham for their head-coaching vacancy. There are five other openings and Graham might have attracted other interest. Graham shut down all inquiries and will return for a second season to further strengthen what far and away was the most potent unit on the team.
Graham, a coordinator for only two years — he ran the show in Miami for the Dolphins in 2019 — was considered long-shot candidate for a head-coaching gig, but so was Joe Judge when he came out of seemingly nowhere to get the Giants job a year ago. All it takes is one team to fall in love.
One team has already fallen in love with Graham and that team gets to keep the relationship going.
“Yes it worked! Now it will be way easier to find Pat,’’ linebacker Blake Martinez tweeted after seeing the news about Graham staying put.
Earlier in the day, Martinez was not feeling nearly as frisky, contemplating possibly losing Graham to another team.
“It’s kind of one of those bittersweet things,’’ Martinez said. “I’m like ‘All right, Pat.’ I’m kind of like that Stage 5 clinger girlfriend. I’m like ‘You’re not allowed to leave me. I’m going to find you.’ But no, I’m excited for him. He is an extremely smart coach, an extremely amazing coach, and I’m happy for him.’’
If Graham had an official fan club, Martinez would be the president, treasurer and chief recruiter. They worked together in Green Bay in 2018 and Graham was a big believer that Martinez could be the centerpiece of a defense, lobbying for his signing in free agency. Martinez finished third in the NFL with 151 tackles and is a fixture in the middle of the Giants defense.
Logan Ryan, the veteran safety whose versatility allowed Graham to use him in a variety of roles, calls Graham “Black Picasso.’’
The Giants went 6-10 and were carried by a defense that finished 12th overall in the NFL and improved from 30th in 2019 to ninth in scoring defense, allowing 22.3 points a game. The Giants were second-best in the league in red-zone defense. Despite not having a feared edge rusher, Graham was able to scheme the Giants to 40 sacks, tied for 12th in the league.
Graham was the Giants defensive line coach in 2016 and 2017, hired by Ben McAdoo. Graham’s personality surfaced this season as perhaps the most trusted sounding board for Joe Judge, the first-year head coach.
Graham said he explains who is closest allies are in coaching with this: “When we go to the combine, who do I have dinner with?’’ Invariably, it was with Judge, who worked with Graham in New England on Bill Belichick’s staff.
“I’m drawn to people who are better than me,’’ Graham said.
Last week, while prepping for the season finale against the Cowboys, Graham was asked about “your defense.’’ He did not let that slide. “Our defense,’’ he said. There is no ego issue with Graham, an Ivy League product prone to correcting anyone who says he played at Yale. “I was on the team at Yale,’’ he says.
The Giants wanted to keep him on their team, although Judge would not stand in anyone’s way, of course.
“I probably expect a number of requests for several of our coaches throughout this offseason,’’ Judge said. “We’ll deal with that internally as they come up.’’
The Giants dealt with it internally by sweetening and extending Graham’s deal. The Chargers asked for permission to speak with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett about their head-coach opening.
For now, any head-coaching aspirations for Graham will be pushed ahead into the future.
“I think he’d do a good job,’’ cornerback James Bradberry said. “Coach Graham is a very, very smart guy. I know he went to an Ivy League school, too. His football knowledge, his football IQ, is above a lot of guys that I have been around. I wish the best for him if that happens. I think he’d be a good candidate.’’
He is no longer a candidate. The Giants took care of that.
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