Going from Paul Guenther, to Rod Marinelli, to Gus Bradley to Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator, the Las Vegas Raiders briefly went through a cycle of play-callers for the defensive side of the ball since 2020.
Four in the last four seasons. But of the quartet of names, Graham has been given an extended stay in Sin City for 2023. Along with an area of defense expertise, he’s Ivy League educated and a part of one championship team.
Patrick Graham’s Stops Include Winning a Super Bowl Along the Way
Graham, 44, is an ex-defensive lineman from Yale. That’s also where he earned a degree in sociology.
After his career in the Ivy League, Graham immediately dove into coaching. He began as a graduate assistant at Wagner College in New York from 2002-2003. Then, his first positional coach opportunity came through the University of Richmond in 2004. He momentarily hopped over to the opposite side of the ball as tight ends coach for the Spiders from 2005 to 2006.
Turned out Graham had one more grad assistant gig — when he accepted a GA offer at Norte Dame in 2007 through former Fighting Irish head coach Charlie Weis. Ultimately, he pivoted back to defense with Toledo in 2009 by coaching the defensive trenches there. From that moment on, Graham stayed on defense.
Graham would join Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots from 2009 to 2015, holding roles from defensive assistant and linebackers coach while also being on the Super Bowl 49 winning staff over the Seattle Seahawks.
Graham then had one of two stints with the New York Giants — the first one from 2016-2017 and then 2020-2021. In between, he spent 2018 with the Green Bay Packers and 2019 for the Miami Dolphins…the latter presenting him with his first defensive coordinator opportunity.
Notable players Graham coached in New England: Jerod Mayo (earned 2010 All-Pro nod with Graham on staff), Andre Carter (earned first Pro Bowl appearance in 2011 in lone season with Pats), Jamie Collins (career-high 115 tackles with Graham as LBs coach then Pro Bowl nod following year) and Dont’a Hightower (150 total tackles in the two seasons Graham was his LBs coach).
Other notable players Graham coached up before joining the Raiders include 2020 Giants Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry, Blake Martinez (151 tackles in Graham’s first season as DC), and future $90 million interior defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence.
Graham’s Scheme and Past Production
Graham’s first defensive output as coordinator was a disastrous result: 30th ranking in yards allowed. However, his first Giants defense improved himself immensely — settling for 12th versus yards. But his 2021 unit dropped to 21st.
His first Raiders’ defense? They ranked 28th versus opponents in the total yards category.
Does Graham run a complicated scheme? Hence the mixed results?
Graham has found a way to produce Pro Bowlers, and in the case of Bradberry, a first-time Pro Bowler. But one nugget he gained from Belichick is being a multiple-front coach.
His schemes have bounced between three to four defensive linemen across the line. However, Graham has noticeably been more of a zone-coverage caller who bounces between Cover 3 and the drop back and read Cover 6 look.
Graham did oversee a Pro Bowl season out of edge rusher Maxx Crosby, who delivered a career-best 12.5 sacks last season. Now, he gets multiple Pro Bowler Marcus Peters to ignite the secondary.
Las Vegas and Graham’s past Patriots co-worker Josh McDaniels are giving Graham another chance to run the defense. Improvement from last season’s production could give the Raiders their first third-year DC since Ken Norton Jr. from 2015 to 2017.