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You’re likely going to get to know Patrick Graham a little better as the Giants’ season progresses into what they hope will become the most unlikely NFC East title in franchise history.
You may already have noticed that the 41-year-old defensive coordinator can coach a little bit. The fact the Giants rank 10th in the NFL in total defense and ninth in scoring defense, while utilizing a rebuilt roster comprised largely of rookies and free-agent acquisitions, is evidence of that.
At 5-7 entering Sunday’s home game against the explosive Cardinals (6-6), the Giants are yielding an average of 22.1 points per game — 16.5 per during the current four-game winning streak.
Safety Logan Ryan, earlier this week on WFAN radio, called Graham “the black Picasso.’’
Graham’s latest work of art was the 17-12 upset victory last Sunday at Seattle, where the Giants defense suffocated a Seahawks offense that had been averaging 31 points and 418 yards per game.
Graham shows himself as a polished, upbeat and humble man whenever he makes any public appearances — which, in this COVID-19 age, is on his weekly Zoom calls with reporters.
Graham, after all, is a Yalie.
Don’t, however, misconstrue Graham’s jovial manner and Ivy League background as soft. The players he has coached throughout his journey, which included six formative years in New England under Bill Belichick, know better than to make that mistake.
“Just so you know who this guy is: You know he’s smart and you know he’s organized,’’ former Giants, Jets and Patriots coach Charlie Weis told The Post about Graham, whom he gave his first big coaching chance when he hired him in 2007 as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame. “But that nice, professorial appearance the you get in the media? The guy’s a freaking wild man. He’s not one of those laid-back dudes. He doesn’t coach that way. He’s not a soft coach. He’s a get-after-their-ass guy.
“In the classroom, he’ll come across professorial and has a good demeanor about him and he’s a family guy. But he has no problem getting after somebody’s ass. None. And it doesn’t matter who you are.’’
Weis, who had Graham with him at Notre Dame for two years (2007-08) before helping him transition to the NFL with Belichick and the Patriots in 2009, recalled his first impression.
“He comes in and I say to him, ‘What’s a guy from Yale doing being a football coach? What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you working on Wall Street or something like that?’ ” Weis said. “This is what he wanted to do.’’
Graham, in only his second year as a coordinator, already is generating some buzz as a potential head-coaching candidate once this season ends thanks to the work he has done this season.
This is how he humbly addressed that topic on Thursday: “I can’t think about that stuff, to be honest with you. I’m not smart enough to think ahead of today. I need to get ready for third down versus Arizona on Sunday. That’s all I’m really focused on.’’
That, of course, is the approach that eventually may land Graham a head-coaching job.
Ryan praised Graham’s “willingness to keep working and not to say, ‘Ah, I’ve got it. I’m the best coordinator. I’m up for a head-coaching job. I’m going to just run what I ran last week [because] it was a masterpiece.’
“No’’ Ryan continued, “he’s going to go back to the lab, come out with 25 new defenses, and we’re going to try to run them and see what looks good and what doesn’t.’’
And if he doesn’t like what he sees from one of his players, Graham is going to let him know about it.
“Oh yeah, he’s a guy that’s straight to the point,’’ linebacker Blake Martinez said Thursday. “You know when it’s time to have fun, you know when it’s time to be serious, and you definitely know when you messed up.’’
Head coach Joe Judge’s mouth creased into a rare smile when asked about Graham getting after his players behind closed doors.
“Pat has a lot of depth to him,’’ Judge said.
Some players are fortunate enough to land on good teams. Graham has been fortunate to land with some pretty good coaches who have helped advance his career and mold him into what he is today — one of the league’s top defensive coordinators.
“Coach Weis, I’m indebted to him for a ton of things — just learning football [and] the opportunity to go to a big school,’’ Graham said. “He took a lot of mornings when I was there as a GA where it was me and him going through the tape. He took the time to teach me how to coach. I’m indebted to him for that.’’