The first thing you notice when you talk to Patrick Graham these days, even over Zoom, is that there is a whole lot less of the New York Giants defensive coordinator than there was at the end of last season.
“That was my heaviest at the end of last year in my whole life, so I had to look in the mirror and get that thing fixed. Thankfully (Craig) Fitz (Fitzgerald), our strength coach, is helping me out in the mornings. Some days I skip; he’s on me. The dietician here, Steve (Smith), he’s doing a good job helping me out,” Graham said on Wednesday. “I don’t want to give an advertisement but I’m going the stationary bike thing, so that’s working out at home. Just trying to show some discipline for a change outside of the office. Show some discipline sitting at a table a little bit. Be a good example for the players.”
Thankfully for the Giants, this more svelte version of Graham is still their defensive coordinator. For his efforts last season in turning one of the league’s worst defenses in 2019 into a top 10 group in 2020, Graham was offered an opportunity to interview for the then-vacant New York Jets’ head-coaching position.
He said no, taking a new contract with the Giants and staying put, instead.
Because the Giants are a “dream job” for him.
“You know, any time opportunities present themselves, you’re excited. Again, has a lot less to do with me and more the guys, the players here, we played decent defense as the year went on, a lot of room to grow. To me, the Giants, this is my dream job to be here as the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. So I’m just happy to be here,” Graham said. “I don’t know, it’s nothing against them or anything. I’m just happy to be a New York Giant.
“Goes back to my days at Notre Dame with (Giants Co-Director of Player Personnel) Tim McDonnell when I knew him, a lot of my mentors, the people that I learned football from had connection with the New York Giants. That’s important to me. I happen to be here working with one of my friends, Joe Judge and I’ve got a great group of guys to work with and a great group of coaches and players. I mean, these guys, our coaches on defense, these guys are top-notch. Who wouldn’t want to have that work environment. That’s why I like it.”
Does he want to be an NFL head coach one day?
“Do I have a desire? Again, I told y’all a long time, I think about today. I have a desire to do well today. We have third down going in today so I’m excited about that,” Graham said. “But in terms of desire to be head coach, I love coaching football. I love being a teacher that happens to teach football.
“You know, everybody in their profession likes a natural progression. If it comes up one day, it comes up one day. But is it the focus of my life, absolutely not. To be honest with you, it’s not the focus. The focus is to coach ballplayers, teach, be around these guys, do a good job for my boss, my head coach and whatever I’m doing, I’m making sure I’m making my parents proud and my family proud.”
The players he coaches are thrilled that he stayed.
“A hell of a coach” is how safety Jabrill Peppers described Graham.
“He makes it [defense] make sense,” Peppers said. “PG definitely knows how to get the best out of his guys and put them in position to excel, so I’m excited.”
Safety Logan Ryan was asked earlier this week how the Giants could utilize all of the defensive back depth they appear to have. He kiddingly suggested an 11-defensive back alignment, adding he knew Graham would figure it out.
“I think that’s the beauty of Pat Graham. I think we have good players and I think Pat Graham has to — or does a great job of making the defense fit the players,” Ryan said.
Graham has plenty of new players. Cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Aaron Robinson, edge rushers Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith along with the returning from injury duo of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, wide-body Danny Shelton replacing Dalvin Tomlinso at nose tackle.
“Well, to combat with what Logan said, I’m an old D-line coach, I wouldn’t mind having 11 D-tackles out there as long as I knew they were going to run the ball,” Graham said kiddingly. “Having depth is a good thing. Again, we don’t know yet. We’ve got such a long way to go before we know who these players are completely. We know what’s on tape and we are working with them now to go through the process but as we work through now mini-camp and the rest of the off-season and going into the summer with training camp, we’ll find out more.
“But I like having a lot of good players. I know (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) likes having a lot of good players and hopefully we play to that. But you know, we place a value on guys being multiple. So if you can cover, you can tackle, you can defend the run, that’s always a about thing and we’ll do our best to put them in the right spots and make it confusing for the offense.”