This will be Graham’s second tenure with the team. He spent two seasons (2016-17) as a defensive line coach on Ben McAdoo’s staff before departing for the Green Bay Packers in 2018. He returns to the Meadowlands after just one season as the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator.
Graham, a Yale graduate who once aspired to work for the CIA, is also a familiar face to new head coach Joe Judge. Both Graham and Judge were former New England Patriots assistant coaches, spending four seasons together (2012-15) on Bill Belichick’s staff.
Graham inherits a defense that started nine first-year or second-year players in 2019. Five rookies started at different points throughout the season including three in the secondary at the same time. The Giants were 25th in yards allowed (6,037) and 30th in points allowed (451). The Dolphins were in a similar situation with using a young roster, ranking 30th in yards (6,634) and last in points (494).
Graham replaces James Bettcher, who arrived at the Giants after molding the Arizona Cardinals into a top-10 unit. Bettcher’s success with the Cardinals couldn’t be replicated with the Giants as the defense was ranked at or near the bottom of the league in both seasons with the team.
Graham’s hire bucked the belief that Judge needs to surround himself with experienced top-level coaches. Judge has never been a head coach on any level and neither has Graham. Giants co-owner/team president John Mara said he wanted to see a former head coach on the staff and got his wish when the team named former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett offensive coordinator.
Graham was a defensive lineman on the Yale team that shared the 1999 Ivy League title. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in sociology with concentrations in economics and African American studies. He began his coaching career while pursuing an MBA, spending seven years as an assistant at the collegiate level with stops at Wagner, Richmond, and Notre Dame.
Graham joined the Patriots in 2009. He served as a coaching assistant (2009), defensive assistant (2010), linebackers coach (2011, 2014-15), and defensive line coach (2012-13). The Patriots led the NFL in takeaways (150) and were fourth in sacks (214) during Graham’s five seasons with the team.
In 2016, Graham helped the Giants defense become the league’s most improved. The defense allowed 158 fewer points (284) and 1,290 fewer yards (5,435) than they had the previous season. The Giants allowed just 88.6 rushing yards (third in the NFL) and 17.8 points (second in the NFL) per game. Damon “Snacks” Harrison’s 86 total tackles (55 solo) were the most by an NFL defensive tackle since Ted Washington’s 92 (70 solo) in 1996. Harrison was also named a First-team All-Pro.
The Giants’ only postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI was in 2016.
Graham is the fourth member of Judge’s staff. He joins Garrett, special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey and wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. Both McGaughey and Tolbert were on Pat Shurmur’s staff.