Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Can you take us back to your decision to come here? Obviously, (Dolphins Head Coach Brian) Flores said this week that your wives are very close, so I'm assuming you two are very close. To leave one good friend to go work for another friend, what was that decision like?
A: I think Flo said it in the media this week – we're like brothers and just respected my decision and allowed me to come. It was just a chance to come back here to the New York Giants, close to home, close to my family, so that's really most of what played into it, to be honest with you.
Q: You're better friends with (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) then, obviously?
A: I spent a lot of time with Flo in the office. Flo, we're very, very close. Very, very close. I'm not going to differentiate. That's not funny to me. Flo is my man. I learned so much from Brian Flores. He's one of the smartest human beings I've ever been around in football, non-football. He challenges you to get better every day. I wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for Flo. Learned a ton about football, learned a ton about life. There's nobody, in my opinion – I mean, he's one of the best coaches in this league in terms of whether it's leadership, in terms of strategy. I know these other people get mentioned all the time, but the guy was defensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl, holding that team to that many points. The leadership he has displayed down there in Miami, the leadership he has displayed whether we were QCs, whether we were position coaches. I'm just telling you, that is my man. I love him to death and I would not be here if it weren't for him in terms of how he challenges you to get better every day. He does a great job of that.
Q: What did you learn about being a defensive coordinator? That was your first year being a defensive coordinator. I know you weren't necessarily calling all the plays or whatever, but what did you learn that year just about being a defensive coordinator?
A: The thing about Flo, Flo is going to make sure he drives you to be the best version of yourself and he was like that when we were just position coaches or when he was a QC. In terms of just making sure you're thinking through all of the matchups, making sure you're thinking through all the strategy, the detail and then on top of that, he's smart, he's tough on the players, he's tough on the coaches. He's just a good coach and a good friend. In terms of learning to be a defensive coordinator, he had done it a year before that and he did it at such a high level, at the highest level winning the Super Bowl, so I really just listened to him and just learned a lot from him.
Q: Did he make a mistake by letting you leave?
A: Did he make a mistake by letting me leave? We don't look in the past. We don't look in the past.
Q: How would you describe your aggressiveness compared to his?
A: My aggressiveness?
Q: We see the way they're blitzing like crazy.
A: I think that each game plan, each person is different. There's no question there. Each game plan is different. I'm sure if you looked at some other game plans where we might have been aggressive, they might not have been – I mean, I don't know. The characteristics of a coordinator vary from person to person. I can't compare. For the most part, I'm watching the offense, so I can't tell you. I know they do a good job with pressure and stuff like that, but it's just based on the game plan.
Q: What do you say to the idea that he's more aggressive than you?
A: More aggressive? That's fine. That's fine.
Q: Just philosophically?
A: Philosophically? The main thing I focus on philosophically is playing with good football position, putting the team first and diving into the process, the same three things I talk about all the time. That's what philosophically gets to it. By week, just try to do what's best for the team and try to put the players in the best position and try to win the game. If it means play two-high and give up 100-something yards rushing and we win the game, I'm good. That's me, that's me.
Q: Is that the performance against the Eagles defensively what you had envisioned?
A: Two hundred yards rushing? No. The win? Yes. That's what we were looking for, the win. We knew what we were trying to do. How is it applicable this week? Two different teams, two different teams. The Miami Dolphins are on an uptick right now, (Dolphins Quarterback) Tua (Tagovailoa) is playing really well, they're running the ball and got over 100 yards the last two games, the offensive line are young guys and some different pieces in there that are starting to click, so hopefully there will be some carryover from the game. That's always easier for the players, like, 'Hey, we used this and this scheme last week. Let's bring this over to the game now.' Will it all be applicable? No, but again, it's really about this week right now and they present a lot of challenges, whether it's the quarterback playing at an alarmingly great rate in terms of efficiency, (Dolphins Running Back Myles) Gaskin, they've got (Dolphins Running Back Phillip) Lindsay now, they're running the ball pretty good, all the gadget stuff they do in terms of the Wildcat, the reverses, the jet sweeps there to the guys, so it's a challenge. It's a challenge.
Q: (Cornerback James) Bradberry has said himself that he wasn't playing up to his standard. Was that game against Philly the kind of game you were looking there from him?
A: I think what Brad did in terms of limiting the effectiveness of the receivers he was matched up on – and at some point we went to having him on (Eagles Wide Receiver DeVonta) Smith and he did a good job. The thing about Brad is he's so long. So long, so that at the line of scrimmage when he's there and being square and getting hands on people, it's hard to get around him. They might be open later in the down, something like that, but when a quarterback sees that it's hard, it's hard to stay with it because you see the guy blanketed in the beginning, so I think Brad is just continuing to improve. Again, he's a relatively young player, he's working through it. I was happy with what he did last week and we've got a big challenge this week, whether it's (Dolphins Wide Receiver Jaylen) Waddle, the guys out there – (Dolphins Wide Receiver DeVante) Parker practiced yesterday. We're going to have a challenge for us and plus the quarterback is throwing the ball efficiently.
Q: Do you have to approach a game any differently when it's 81 degrees and you're coming from a game where you played in football weather?
A: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I think having lived down there and having coached down there, it's definitely something you've got to pay attention to. Again, we're not playing the weather, so it's about how we play the game and how we execute. But, you've got to make sure you're staying hydrated, make sure guys understand that it's going to be a little bit of a weather change. When you get to the hotel, make sure you go outside and don't let the first time you get outside be the morning of. Just get a little used to it, but definitely take it into account.
Q: Do you rotate more?
A: Do you rotate more? We rotate a good bit already. I could see why you would.
Q: When you watch Waddle on tape, what is it that is making him so successful this early?
A: He's fast. That's the first thing, he's really, really fast. He's explosive out of his breaks and then I would say (Dolphins Co-Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach) George (Godsey) and (Dolphins Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach) Eric Studesville are doing a good job of putting him in spots to get him open. Again, I know those two guys, I QC'd with George, so in terms of familiarity, whether it's George, (Dolphins Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer) over there on the defensive side of the ball, (Dolphins Outside Linebackers Coach) Robby Leonard, who was here, Flo, all these guys, I know all these guys. They're really smart coaches and they're doing a good job of getting him in space, creating mismatches with the guys, so that's one thing they're doing. On top of his skill level, they're putting him in the right spot and that's what I'm seeing on tape.
Q: What makes this group of yours so good at creating turnovers? You have one in every game this year.
A: I think we have some ball hawks. I think (Safety) Zay (Xavier McKinney) – again, I didn't know him when he was in college, but some of our coaches knew him in college and when he was in high school – he's always been a ball hawk. He's always been somebody who can get the ball. You talk about (Cornerback) Darnay's (Holmes) interception last week – I mean, Darnay was basically a skill player back at UCLA, whether he was returning kicks, getting interceptions when he was playing outside playing corner, so I think that's part of the evaluation process when we're going through the draft. We're looking for guys who are ball hawks because some of it can be taught, but some of it is just natural with those guys that want to get to the ball. The more of those guys that we can have and the better we can execute in terms of practicing the techniques, giving them some tendencies to be able to play fast with anticipation, it all comes into play and they're doing a good job. I think they take pride in it. They take pride in it. We always talk about taking the ball away from them, whether it's a turnover, a takeaway, but you're taking the ball away from them. That's something they take pride in.
Q: I think I heard you say before that one of your overall defensive philosophies is to take away the game breakers, which is obviously easier said than done or some of the best players wouldn't have great stats ever. I looked back just last game as an example, (Eagles Tight End Dallas) Goedert and Smith didn't have huge games. Can you just talk about that process of taking away the best player and kind of letting other guys beat you?
A: That's how I learned football, in terms of who are the guys that can win the game, who are they trying to win the game with. If we can take those guys away, then it forces them to play left-handed. Not saying the other guys can't make plays – I remember in 2014 against Green Bay when we went up there in December, we were taking away (Packers Wide Receiver Randall) Cobb and (Jordy) Nelson, and (Packers Wide Receiver Davante) Adams to that point didn't do anything. Didn't do anything. That game he did something (laughs). That game he did something and we lost. I remember when I was at Green Bay, I told him about that and I explained to him the whole story, I said, 'Man, you stepped up and you won the game for them.' But, that's the process, you try to make them play left-handed, but you've got to be ready for their other options. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but the key thing is just thinking about Miami, they've got guys that could really hurt you. You know who they're trying to get the ball to. You try to take them away and see if the other guys can beat you. But when you've got a bunch of skill guys, you've got (Dolphins Wide Receiver) Albert (Wilson), you've got Gaskin, who's playing well, you've got Tua playing well. You can try to take away the other guys, but then you've got to make sure you're defending them.
Q: Triple-team Waddle, right?
A: (Laughs). Triple-team? I don't know. You're going to have a hard time with (Dolphins Tight End) Mike Gesicki over there and Gaskin. It would be tough.
Q: How much work had (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson gotten outside? Seemed like he got pressed into that during the game. How do you think he did? It seems now he's going to have a potentially bigger role with Darnay out.
A: I think, again, our job as coaches is we've got to be able to anticipate some of the sudden change. It's something that Flo used to say all the time, 'Adapt or die,' so in terms of being able to adjust to that, we've got to make sure during practice that we're getting them work both ways. Especially at the DB position, you see how we roll those guys. Somebody like (Safety Julian) Love, he's playing P, P and punt. He's a safety one minute, he's a nickel back one minute, he's a sub linebacker. We've got to anticipate the possibility of that and so what we do is we cross-train everybody. We cross-train everybody. Now, are most of his reps more inside? Probably if you looked into it and tracked it, but we try to cross-train the guys because they understand that your place on the team is determined by your value. Obviously, you have more value if you can do more stuff and they buy into it. That's something that Joe preaches. That's how we learned the game of football. Again, I keep saying 'we' because all the guys we're talking about, these coaches, whether it's George, whether it's Josh, whether it's Flo, whether it's me, Joe, we all worked together and we were all young guys in the cafeteria trying to get our food and go back to our desks and not sitting down, and having conversations in our meeting rooms. That's really where it comes from.