Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Starting on a positive, what's gotten into Zo (Linebacker Lorenzo Carter) the last couple of weeks?
A: I told him yesterday, I'm going to start calling him Mr. Carter. Mr. Carter showed up. Who knows the exact reason? I know he works hard; he works really hard during the week and I'm happy for him that it's starting to come together, having some success. He's playing pretty well, he's doing a good job in the run setting the edge, being able to transition especially on early downs getting some pass rush and stuff. You saw last week – we talked about flashing the long arm on like the third kick with that guy. Boom got it and it worked out perfectly. It's starting to come together for him. I'm just happy for him, but I refer to him as Mr. Carter. I might keep it going today, too.
Q: There might be some cynics who look at it saying the guy is in a contract year. Was he hurt before this?
A: Obviously, he got hurt last year. Again, injury questions you've got to ask (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) and all those guys, but sometimes it just takes a while to get it clicking. Maybe something in his mind is coming together. You really have to ask him. I can't speak for him. I'm just happy that he's playing better and he's having some success. Not that he was playing poorly before, but just getting the production because that's part of it. This is a production business, whether you're coaching, you're playing, whatever it may be. It's a production business and you want to reap the benefits of your hard work. Those sacks, the TFLs, being around the ball, all that stuff is part of it.
Q: Probably the last time we'll talk to you this season. We know last year you turned down an interview for a head coach. Will you take one this year if somebody calls and offers one?
A: It's so hard, those jobs. Obviously – I mean, not obviously, but the idea is to one day be a head coach. A lot of us that get in this business want to do that. Again, I can't really speak on it right now because whatever the situation is, if someone wants to talk to me, they want to talk to me. I'm sure I'll consider it, but right now my focus is so much on Washington, trying to figure out a way to win this game, get the guys in the right spot. I would be flattered to have an opportunity, but we'll see what comes of it later on.
Q: I know you just said you're focused on Washington, but since we won't get you again, how do you reflect on how the defense played overall this season when you look?
A: It starts with me. I don't think I did a good enough job. Obviously, when you don't get the wins that you wanted, you've got to do a better job. It starts with me. I've got a lot of stuff to reflect on this offseason to try to get it right – not to try, to get it right. I've got a list of stuff over by my desk on my righthand side of stuff I've got to get fixed. Behind my back, we use dry erase boards that slide, so that backboard has a lot of the stuff that I'm getting on myself about. It starts there. From there, then you look at the statistical stuff and the analytics stuff, maybe in terms of the calls and everything and what should work out here. The one thing I love about the offseason, especially when it starts next week, I love watching the playoff games. Unfortunately, for the last five years I haven't been in a playoff game, so that's not fun. But I get to watch the playoff games because a lot of situational football comes up, a lot of schemes that maybe you haven't seen, but the crossover tape will come up. Again, good for me. My wife, thankfully she likes to watch football, but it's still a workweek for me. The weekends I'm working. You talk to any coaches, tough to watch those games and not work, so you're working and trying to pick their brains. From there, I'll probably figure out what team I want to study, what coordinator's system I want to study. Got a lot to do a lot of studying this offseason, got to get it right, got to work on the slow start stuff like that, the two-minute obviously. Just a lot of stuff to work on, a lot of stuff to work on.
Q: You mentioned the two-minute. I lost track of – gave up a lot of points in the two-minute. Why do you think that is?
A: Again, it starts with me. That's part of evaluating. Again, we've got one more opportunity this week. I'm sure a two-minute before the half will come up and most games in this league come down to two-minute at the end of the game. Got another opportunity this week, but looking back at it, there's probably a number of things. I know it starts with me. I've got to get better in that situation, making sure I really emphasize attacking their weaknesses and emphasizing our strengths. But, a lot of room to grow on that. Learned my lesson this year and I'll work to improve it next year, but it starts pretty soon. Obviously, you've got to start this week because Washington, they got us in the two-minute twice last time, so that was good. They got down there in the low red, that third-and-three or whatever with 23 seconds, they ran the ball in, get the field goal. So, we got it to a fourth down, didn't capitalize on that, so just some situational football in there we've got to get fixed.
Q: If I could ask one big-picture coordinator question, what do you think is the hardest offense to stop? I'm not saying what team, I'm saying is it one that gets the ball out fast or one that runs more than it passes?
A: I can give you specifics. Over my 13-year career in the league, the guy who's given me – not me, I wasn't a coordinator, but just as a coach – (Gary) Kubiak. It didn't matter. It didn't matter what we did, they would go for 300, 400 yards. Combination of that zone stretch, play-action. They always did a good job, but they used to murder us (laughs). I'm not saying we would lose every game, but they used to murder us. I'm telling you if you get me drinking enough and I start talking, it's nightmares from those games (laughs). You want to talk about remembering plays? I can remember probably – you can point out gains of 25, like alright, 2012 Houston. Trust me, I've got some nightmares from Kubiak. He's pretty good, he's pretty good.
Q: You're pretty close with Joe. You're not oblivious to what's going on around that—
Q: What do you think of all the criticism that he's been getting, including for that press conference the other day?
A: I can't speak on the specifics or anything. I just know this, good leadership, being able to ignore the noise, and being able to focus. I talked about it before, the emotional stamina to be able to handle whatever comes their way. Again, I'm here because of Joe. I'm here because of Joe. I trust in Joe's vision. Again, leadership has to have vision and with vision, you can't be worried about the stuff that tries to sidetrack you from there. Again, I don't pay attention to the criticism. I'm sure my wife would want to tell me some stuff, but she keeps that away from me. People text me during the season, it's hard to get in touch with me during the season, so I can't really speak on it. I just know this, I know Joe's strong, he's a good leader, smart dude and he'll handle it how he needs to handle it, but to me, just ignore the noise. That's what you have to do. One-minute Pat Graham is the worst defensive coordinator ever in the history of football, one minute I'm going to be the head coach of whatever, now I'm the worst coordinator again. I don't listen to it. Again, obviously, I might have heard it, I just regurgitated it back to you (laughs), but I don't pay any attention to it. I know this, I've got a long way to go. I know that. I hope I'm not a finished product right now. I've got a long way to go, so we're just trained to just really ignore it. Really ignore it, focus on the players, focus on the opponent. Washington, the quarterback is playing well. I really like this guy. I remember seeing him in that game against Tampa Bay last year in the playoffs. When I talked about watching the playoff games, I was like, 'Who is this guy?' Just how he's done so well this year, we've got a tough opponent this week, so that's the main focus for me.
Q: Do you feel like this defense as a whole, big-picture at the end of this year going into next year, is really close to being – you guys are pretty good and you're good in stretches. Are you close to being a really high-end unit here?
A: I think this: the energy is good; the work ethic is good. I think I've got some improvements that I need to do as a coordinator, as a play-caller. I think sometimes – and again, it goes back to me, the finish. The finish. We've got to finish better. Again, it starts with me. I call the call, so it starts with me. I think that's one thing looking ahead that's something that will help us, the finish. Finish on opportunities, whether it's the right call in the third-down situation, whether to pressure, whether not to pressure, stuff like that. Are we close? I mean, next year is a whole new year. This is the last time we're going to have this group of guys out there. That's why we've got to enjoy every moment. This is the last Thursday meeting I'm going to have with the guys. Tomorrow is the last Friday meeting. Today's the last Thursday practice. You think about it, it gets kind of sad sometimes because you know you're not going to see the whole group again. Again, it's a business, we're playing football, we're coaching football, but I spend more time with them than I do my family, so you get close with these guys. I know me personally, I do this because of them. That's where I get my energy, I draw my energy from the players. I know I'm a pretty grumpy, cranky, miserable dude for the most part, aside from my family and these players. I just want success for them. That's why I get upset about stuff because I just want them to be successful. I want Leo (Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams) to win games, I want JB (Cornerback James Bradberry) to win games. All the work they put in out here, I want them to win games, I want them to reap the rewards of all their hard work, so that's when the disappointment sets in. Then, when you start to get towards the end of the year and we didn't get to where we wanted to get to, it gets a little sad. Are we close? Who knows? Next year is so different. I know this, I've got to get better and I'm sure they're thinking they've got to get better because it wasn't good enough, I'll tell you that much. Close, not good enough – you're either good and you hold that trophy at the end or it wasn't good enough. Again, I know there's in-between, but when you win the thing one time that's all that matters. All that matters.
Q: Do you sense any uncertainty on this staff about whether the plug is going to get pulled on this?
A: We coach football in the NFL. Since the moment I signed my first contract in 2009 when (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) called me in the office and I signed my contract, I knew then 'Not for long,' all that stuff that coaches tell you, that's how it is. I can't speak about this particular situation or anything like that. I just know how I operate. I operate just hoping, boom, swipe my card, I get in, cool. I'm here for another day and I just work hard for that day. Again, I think when you learn to focus on the day, you're not worried about that stuff. I know there are stories written and there's stuff, I get it. I'm not trying to be disrespectful to the question or anything like that, but in terms of how I operate, and I know how a lot of the coaches operate, it's day-to-day. I'm focused on Washington right now, figuring out a way to stop 24 (Antonio Gibson), figuring out a way to limit 17 (Terry McLaurin) on Sunday, figure out a way to keep the quarterback from scrambling all over the place and throwing these passes behind his ear and whatever he's doing. This guy is completing a lot of balls. That's what's keeping me up right now.