As the Cincinnati Bengals and their fanbase suffer through another miserable season and reports of a “toxic culture” plaguing the Bengals locker room continue to surface, the case for keeping 37-year old Zac Taylor around for a third-year as head coach is slimming by the day.
Taylor is just 4-23-1 since replacing Marvin Lewis as Bengals head coach following the 2018 season.
Before coming to the Queen City, Taylor served as the quarterbacks coach under offensive guru Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams. The Bengals hoped to find the next McVay in Taylor but instead have received nothing but a nightmare.
With the young offensive mind not working as head coach and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow expected to excel regardless of what offensive system he’s in next season, the Bengals should let Taylor go and take a hard look at New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
The 41-year old Graham has an impressive resume as he’s soared through the NFL coaching ranks ever since his arrival to the league in 2009.
NFL coaching résumé
- 2009: Coaching assistant, New England Patriots
- 2010: Defensive assistant, New England Patriots
- 2011: Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots (AFC Champion)
- 2012-13: Defensive Line Coach, New England Patriots
- 2014-15: Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLIX Champion)
- 2016-17: Defensive Line Coach, New York Giants
- 2018: Linebackers coach & run game coordinator, Green Bay Packers
- 2019: Defensive coordinator, Miami Dolphins
- 2020: Assistant head coach & defensive coordinator, New York Giants
Throughout his NFL coaching career, Graham has developed several players into pro-bowl caliber defenders.
In New England, he coached players such as Vince Wilfork, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, who all developed into some of the best players at their respective positions under Graham’s wing.
When he joined the Giants for his first tenure with Big Blue in 2016, he coached a New York defensive line that finished second in the NFL in run defense and finished the year 11-5.
In 2019, Graham helped start developing a young Miami Dolphins defense that in 2020 ranks among the best in the NFL with many of the same faces Graham coached.
While Graham had success in New England, his first tenure in New York and with the Dolphins, no job he has done has been better than his this season accomplishments as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator of the Giants.
Graham inherited a Giants defense that finished 30th in the NFL in 2019, allowing 377.3 yards per game.
Not only was Graham tasked with rebuilding a Giants defense that was among the worst in the NFL last season, but he had to help build chemistry on a defense consiting of free-agent additions Blake Martinez, James Bradberry and Logan Ryan while also coaching several rookies and young players.
Despite all the challenges, Graham’s unit has been among the best in the NFL this season. The Giants rank 10th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 339 yards per game. They’ve caused 20 turnovers, which ranks tied for third in the NFL (Rams), have recorded at least two sacks in every game this season and have the NFL’s fourth best-run defense.
This past weekend, the Giants held a Seattle Seahawks offense that had been averaging over 30 points a game to 10 points (two scored on special teams) while holding MVP candidate, Russell Wilson, to 263 yards with just one touchdown, an interception, fumble while sacking him five times in a 17-12 upset win to extend New York’s NFC East lead.
The week before that, Graham showed the Bengals first-hand what he can do to slow down opposing defenses.
In a Week 12 win at Paul Brown Stadium, Graham’s defense allowed just 10 points (seven Bengals points came on special teams), forced three turnovers and allowed just 155 total yards.
Graham’s best known for confusing looks throwing off opposing offense’s a great memory that helps with his play calling.
“We always joke around about how Pat (Graham) is like a computer,” Giants defensive end Leonard Williams who already has posted a career-high 8.5 sacks this season, said after their win over Seattle.
“He’s just like a genius when it comes to scheming guys and understanding who he has and who he has to go against. He just puts guys in a great position to play their best.”
Another perk of hiring Graham is helping diversify the NFL head coaching landscape that currently has just three African American head coaches league-wide.
While some fans may look for offensive-minded coaches such as Eric Bieniemy or Joe Brady to fill Taylor’s shoes, Graham’s defensive mind could help turn around a Bengals defense that again ranks near the bottom of the league this season at 26th and instead allowing him to find the right offensive coordinator for Burrow and the offense through his coaching connections across the league.
Graham’s toughness, respect from players and confusing schemes are needed in Cincinnati, where the team seems to have little respect for their coaches and are not fooling any of their opponents.