EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Patrick Graham will be the first to concede the Giants' defense hasn't played as well as expected this season after an outstanding 2020.
He will also be the first to take responsibility for that.
"It starts with me," Graham, the team's defensive coordinator, said Thursday in his final weekly meeting of the season with reporters. "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."
Safety Logan Ryan said Graham shouldn't assume the burden for the defensive shortcomings.
"I think the players need to execute the plays that are being called," Ryan said. "Just because something doesn't go right on a play doesn't mean its Patrick Graham's fault. Sometimes it's the players fault and it means that you shoulder that part of the game because we're playing the game and he allows some of us to be free as well and use some of our expertise and some of our knowledge and skillset and let those guys play free. That's what Pat allows us to do. So, it's our job to make those plays when we are and when we don't, you just chalk it up to a good play on offense and you keep going.
The Giants are 4-12 as they prepare to host the 6-10 Washington Football Team in the season finale Sunday in MetLife Stadium.
When the season began, the defense was widely considered the strength of a team that could possibly contend for the playoffs. But the unit hasn't stifled opposing offenses as it did in Joe Judge's and Graham's first season (all numbers through 16 games):
|2020 NFL Rank/Stat||2021 NFL Rank/Stat|
The Giants have lost some standout defensive players to injuries, most notably captains Blake Martinez and Jabrill Peppers. Other starters like Logan Ryan and Lorenzo Carter have also missed time.
Graham isn't looking for excuses, but a reason why the season played out as it did and solutions to ensure it doesn't happen again. That process will begin early next week, where there are no more games to play.
"You look at the statistical stuff and the analytics stuff, maybe in terms of the calls and everything and what should work out here," Graham said. "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.
"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."
Ryan believes better times are ahead for Graham and the defense.
"I just think Pat's again consistent in his approach and I've known Pat for a lot of years," Ryan said. "He's a very good coach and he's a player's coach who believes in his guys and puts his guys in a position to make the plays and whether we make them or not, that comes down to the players at the end of the day. It's a good mix between the player and the coach. It's a good relationship that we have with Pat, and we'll continue to grow under him and continue to improve as a defense."
*When will Judge turn his attention to offseason tasks?
"First thing Monday morning," he said. "It never really stops, so as soon as this game is done. Obviously, we'll talk with the players. Then, we'll start the preparing immediately for next year."
*Graham is highly regarded around the NFL and could receive interest as a head coaching candidate. Last year, he declined an invitation to meet with the Jets when they had an opening. This year, he will perhaps be more receptive to an overture.
"It's so hard, those jobs," said Graham, who turns 43 on Jan. 24. "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."
Second-year safety Xavier McKinney, who leads the team with five interceptions, said he believes Graham will be a head coach. He'd prefer it not be in 2022.
"I'm hopeful that he comes back," McKinney said. "Obviously, this is my second year having him as the DC and I like what he's building with us as a defensive unit. I like what he preaches and like I said, I hope he comes back, we want him to come back so we can keep building. Obviously, the year didn't go how we wanted it to go this year or last year, but I think small steps and it takes time, but I think we'll get there to that dominant defense that we want to have."
*Center Billy Price, who missed the Bears game for personal reasons, has returned to the team.
"The anticipation is he will play, yes," Judge said.
*One of the key plays in the Giants' 29-3 loss in Chicago last Sunday was a kickoff that was misplayed by Giants return specialist Pharoh Cooper, who thought the ball would bounce into the end zone. It did not and the Giants took possession at their five-yard line. The Bears took advantage of the miscue by scoring on a safety and a field goal in the final 52 seconds of the first half to extend their lead to 22-3.
"Simple mistake," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. "It was an honest mistake by Coop and it's unfortunate. It's unfortunate it happened. He knows it was a mistake. That's football. I can promise you this, you wouldn't have a better guy as far as just work ethic, doing the right things, being in meetings. He just made an honest mistake. The wind was tricky, and it was typical Chicago in January – really, really cold, really, really windy – hence, 'the Windy City.' But he made an honest mistake.
"The wind took it. The exact instructions – put your heels on the three-yard line. Unfortunately, it happened. Again, you live and you learn and onto the next play."
Asked who will return kickoffs against Washington, McGaughey said, "That's a good question. We'll see."
*A scoring change by the Elias Sports Bureau has added four yards to the Giants net passing and total yardage figures from their game Sunday in Chicago.
On the game's first play, Mike Glennon fumbled as he was sacked by Trevis Gipson. Because the play began the at the 25-yard line and the ball was recovered at the 14, the Giants were originally docked 11 net passing yards. But after reviewing the play, Elias determined that after Glennon lost the ball it started going forward, bounced off a Bears player's helmet and then went backward. Instead of the sack yardage going to the point of recovery (minus-11), it only goes to the spot at where the impetus changed (minus-7).
The Giants' net passing yards in the game increased from minus-10 to minus-6. Instead of having the fewest net passing yards since the San Diego Chargers' minus-19 vs. Kansas City on Sept. 20, 1998, the Giants had the fewest since Tennessee's minus-7 on Oct. 18, 2009 in a 59-0 loss to New England.
In addition, the Giants finished with 155 net yards, the lowest total in the two-year Joe Judge era. The previous low was 159 vs. Arizona on Dec. 13, 2020.
*Wide receiver Kadarius Toney (shoulder) and Carter (illness) were added to the list of players who did not practice. They were joined by defensive lineman Austin Johnson (foot), who has started all 16 games this season, wide receiver John Ross (knee), fullback Cullen Gillaspia (knee) and quarterback Mike Glennon (left wrist), who, Judge already will not play against Washington.
Wide receiver Collin Johnson (hamstring) and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (COVID ramp up) were both limited after not practicing yesterday. Also limited were running back Saquon Barkley (ankle), guard Will Hernandez (ankle), tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle), wide receiver Darius Slayton (shoulder/COVID ramp up) and defensive lineman Danny Shelton and tackle Korey Cunningham (both COVID ramp up).
*Practice squad defensive back Dwayne Johnson was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Wide receiver Dante Pettis was removed from the list, though he remains on injured reserve.
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