The Las Vegas Raiders opted to move on from Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator this past offseason. In his defense, Bradley turned around a truly putrid unit. In fact, in the eyes of many, he guided them into becoming a serviceable unit. Regardless, with a new regime coming into place, Patrick Graham was instead handed the keys for 2022. As one of the most revered NFL assistant coaches the past couple of years, is Graham destined to be a head coach in 2023?
In a recent Sports Illustrated publication, Conor Orr listed several assistants that could be in the running for head coaching gigs next year. Among them was Graham. A defensive coordinator since 2019, Graham has groomed some impressive defenses. Arguably, his best season was in 2020 with the New York Giants. That year, his defense ranked in the top ten in several key categories. The team ranked 10th in rushing yards and touchdowns allowed, ninth in points allowed, and fifth in passing touchdowns allowed.
What makes Raiders DC Patrick Graham a potential candidate next year?
The Raiders’ defense has seen its share of struggles here in the early going. At the same time, Graham has developed young players such as Nate Hobbs into stellar contributors already. One of the major issues with his unit right now is an apparent lack of depth. It goes without saying that it’s not his fault. Rather, the blame lies with the previous regime. Orr also points to some of Graham’s bad luck in his career but insists that he’s a viable candidate next year.
“Graham was a star of the NFL’s offseason minority coaching summit this year. Considered a brilliant mindâ€”he is referred to as the ‘Black Picasso’â€”the Yale graduate has simply had some bad luck in terms of locale after leaving the Dolphins in 2019. Graham still compiled a formidable defenseâ€”19th and 18th in defense-adjusted value over average, respectivelyâ€”despite a bottom-tier roster that resulted in the stepping down of the team’s G.M. following the ’21 season. Graham’s unit is still among the best in the NFL this year in terms of opponent rushing EPA (expected points added per attempt). If the Raiders turn it around, so will Graham’s candidacy.”
As a whole, the Raiders’ defense is struggling. As mentioned above, there are bright spots, but not all is well. Chandler Jones isn’t delivering on expectations. Despite playing “solid” as stated by BD Williams of the Tape Don’t Lie show, his play has left much to be desired. The unit has also been devastated by injuries, especially in the secondary. If Graham’s cornerbacks and safeties were all healthy, we’d be talking about a completely different story.
The rankings and stats don’t favor Graham right now in terms of head coaching prospects. The Raiders’ defense ranks in the 20s in most major categories, besides rushing yards allowed (15th) and passing touchdowns allowed (16th). In the end, just as Orr states, there’s still hope for Graham. If the Raiders’ numbers improve this season, let’s say to middle of the road status, Graham could certainly garner attention. Besides, we’ve seen less qualified coordinators get head coaching opportunities in the past.
*Top Photo: Las Vegas Review-Journal