Steeler Fans Should Not Dismiss Patrick Graham as a DC Candidate

 



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The Pittsburgh Steelers requested an interview with current New York Giants Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham.  This follows the departure of former Steeler Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler, as he rides off into the sunset of retirement. 

Some fans instantly see “the New York Giants” and think no way.  The Giants are terrible and one of the laughing stocks of the league right now.  Other fans think Graham is just a way for the Steelers to complete the requirements of the Rooney Rule.  The rule states that a team must interview one external minority candidate for any open position.

However, this immediate dismissal of Patrick Graham as a legitimate candidate for the position is not right.  Graham is a successful coordinator with an impressive career.  He is also well sought after and well thought of throughout the league.

Graham has 12 years of NFL coaching experience with four different teams.  He also has both postseason and Super Bowl experience.  Additionally, Graham coached under one of the greatest defensive minds in the history of football.  You may have heard of him: Bill Belichick. 

In fact, Graham was the linebackers coach the year the Patriots picked off Russell Wilson at the goal line and beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.  The following season, with Graham still leading the linebacker unit, Jamie Collins tied a Patriots record with five forced fumbles, and the defensive unit as a whole finished the season ninth in total yards and tenth in points allowed per game.

While the Giants have not been great while Graham has been there, it is certainly not his fault.  I think we have all seen that recently fired head coach, Joe Judge, was not the right man for the job.  Judge couldn’t have led the Giants to winning football if he had Patrick Mahomes, Cooper Kupp, T.J. Watt, and Aaron Donald on his squad.  He has grossly misused his personnel and has thus lost his job because of it.  This should be no indictment on Graham or any of the coordinators who had to deal with Judge’s ineptness. 

In Graham’s debut as Giants defensive coordinator in 2020, the defensive unit ranked ninth by allowing just 357 points on the season, which were 94 fewer points than in 2019.  He also improved their rushing defense to 10th in the league from 20th, and the pass defense to 16th in the league from 28th .  Furthermore, the Giant recorded 40 sacks in 2020, which was their highest total since 2014.  Leonard Williams led the team with 11.5 sacks, which was a Giants’ high mark since Jason Pierre-Paul’s 14.5 in 2014.

Graham also has ties to, Steeler safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick.  Graham coached Minkah as defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, before Minkah was traded to the Steelers on September 17th, 2019.  2019 was a tough season for Graham, with the Dolphins having a revolving door of personnel on the defensive side due to trades and injuries.  However, he did prevent his former employer, the Patriots, from earning the first-round bye that season when they beat the Pats in the season finale. 

Patrick Graham has a history of postseason experience, is a Super Bowl Champion, and appears to specifically work well with linebackers.  I could see him utilizing T.J. Watt even better than Butler did and maybe even finding the old Devin Bush again.  Regardless, I think it is downright offensive for Steeler fans to dismiss Graham as a candidate solely because the Giants have been dumpster fire the last two seasons.  He was an asset to that team, and the ineptitude of the head coach should not fall on Graham. 

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