Paul: ‘I have a list of targets of people that keep talking sh**, Antonio Brown, Dillon Danis’

Jake Paul has vowed to keep boxing as he prepares to make his professional debut against fellow YouTube star AnEsonGib at the Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami on Thursday, January 30, live on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports in the UK. 

After a fiery press conference in Los Angeles, Paul and Gib are in the process of completing their training camps in Big Bear, California and Las Vegas respectively, and Paul says he has fallen in love with the sport and wants to prove he is taking it seriously by not just beating Gib, but using victory to launch a boxing career.

 “I see how big this is becoming,” said Paul. “It’s just the start of what we’re going to see, and that’s why I am so excited by it, I want to be the pioneer of this space.     

“This is not a one-off stunt for me. I want to keep fighting, and I have a list of targets of people that keep talking shit, Antonio Brown, Dillon Danis, other YouTubers – the potential for this is massive, and I know that I will be the best ‘influencer-boxer’. I’ve fallen in love with boxing; I was watching my sparring back and just thinking, ‘I love fighting.’ It takes me back to why roots of being competitive playing football and wrestling.

“This is new; it is an untapped vertical for me. I look at myself as an innovator and a pioneer. I came into YouTube at a time when a lot of change needed to happen, and I was that change along with my brother. We went so big and viral and became the biggest. 

“Boxing is making a huge comeback, and there’s a huge lane for ‘celebrities’ or whatever you want to call us to make huge noise. It’s a business. If we can see the most tickets, we’re going to make the most money and draw the most fans, and no-one can really hate on that. That’s why I want to be the best and most technically skilled ‘influencer-boxer.’”

Paul and Gib clash on a massive night of action in Super Bowl week with WBO World Middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade (28-0 17 KOs) defending his crown against Irish challenger Luke Keeler (17-2-1 5 KOs), Tevin Farmer (30-4-1, 6 KOs) defending his IBF World Super Featherweight title against JoJo Diaz (30-1, 15 KOs), and unified World Super Bantamweight champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 10 KOs) defending his titles against Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6 KOs).

Photo: Matchroom Boxing

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Marial Shayok scores 29 points in Blue Coats’ 119-109 victory over Lakers

The Delaware Blue Coats (14-10), the NBA G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, defeated the South Bay Lakers (10-17), 119-109, on Monday afternoon at 76ers Fieldhouse. Seven Blue Coats players scored at least 10 points for the third time this season, improving to 2-1 in such games.

76ers two-way contract player Marial Shayok tallied a game-high 29 points (12-21 fg, 5-9 3fg) with six rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes for the Blue Coats. Xavier Munford scored 17 of his 21 points (6-13 fg, 3-7 3fg, 4-4 ft) in the first half for Delaware, while Doral Moore registered 17 points (7-12 fg, 2-2 ft), seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 29 minutes off the bench.

Zhaire Smith, on assignment from the 76ers, finished the game with 14 points (5-12 fg, 4-8 3fg), three rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes of action for the home team. Smith matched his career-high mark with four 3-point field goals made. Julian Washburn notched his first double-double of the season for the Blue Coats with 10 points (3-4 fg, 2-3 3fg, 2-2 ft) and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes, while Christ Koumadje neared a double-double with 10 points (4-7 fg, 1-2 ft), nine rebounds and five blocked shots in just 16 minutes of work.

The Blue Coats led 75-54 at halftime and by as many as 34 points in the third quarter. Delaware outrebounded the visitors 54-50, marking the team’s sixteenth game with at least 50 total rebounds.

Zach Norvell Jr. paced South Bay with 22 points (6-10 fg, 3-6 3fg, 4-5 ft), six rebounds and a pair of assists in 35 minutes as a starter. Los Angeles Lakers two-way contract player Kostas Antetokounmpo secured his third-straight double-double with 21 points (9-18 fg, 1-4 3fg, 1-2 ft) and 13 rebounds in 33 minutes for South Bay. Marcus Allen and Javan Felix each finished with 18 points in reserve roles for the visitors, with the duo combining for 16 points in the third quarter.

The Blue Coats will hit the road to take on the Memphis Hustle on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

Andy Reid on Mahomes: ‘For a young guy, he’s a special kid’

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in football, and that has been on full display in these playoffs, including yesterday when he threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns, and he also led the Chiefs in rushing against the Titans, when he ran for 53 yards and added another touchdown on the ground, as Kansas City defeated Tennessee 35-24 in the AFC title game to advance to play the 49ers in Super Bowl 54 in Miami.

The third-year quarterback, just like he did against the Texans in the Divisional round, started slow, but picked it up as the game went along. Kansas City trailed 17-7 in the second quarter; however, the Chiefs would score the next 28 points to gain complete control of the game.

Mahomes, 24, always seems to play under control and made all the plays needed for Kansas City to beat Tennessee, and according to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, Mahomes is a special player.

“He’s great to be around every day because he brings energy every day,” Reid said on Monday. “You respect that. Everybody has their ups and downs because there is life outside of football. When he’s in that building it’s all football; it’s all team. He’s never said it’s about me.

“I’ve never heard that from him. It’s all 100% about the team and how we’re doing and what can we do better, where can I help. Then, he buckles down to get the game plan down and he studies. For the young guys out there, what a great example. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but you see him know when to run when to get down, know when to throw it. For a young guy, he’s a special kid. The city is lucky to have him. It’s a nice match up having great fans and a great quarterback like that.”

When they get it going, Kansas City’s offense has been unstoppable in these playoffs, and no matter how great of a year Lamar Jackson had in Baltimore, Mahomes, who threw 50 touchdowns last season, has proven in these playoffs that he is the best quarterback in the NFL.

 

76ers’ Ben Simmons named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

The NBA announced today that Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for play during the week of Monday, Jan. 13 through Sunday, Jan. 19. This marks Simmons’ third career Player of the Week honor, earning the award in each of his first three seasons in the NBA (April 9, 2018 and March 4, 201

Simmons’ award marks Philadelphia’s second consecutive winner after Josh Richardson earned Player of the Week honors on Jan. 13. The last time the 76ers were awarded back-to-back Player of the Week honors was the 2002-03 season when Hall of Famer Allen Iverson earned the honor in consecutive weeks. The last time two different 76ers earned the award in back-to-back weeks was when Aaron McKie and Iverson did so in 2000-01.

 For the week, the 76ers played in four games, earning a 3-1 record. Simmons recorded a total of 85 points through four games, averaging 21.3 points on the week. The 2019 NBA All-Star notched 20-or-more points in a career-high four straight games. Simmons also averaged 9.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, the only Eastern Conference player to record such averages last week and one of three in the NBA.

 Simmons registered a double-double in three of the four games, with all three coming in the form of 20-10 games (two point-rebound double-doubles and one point-assist double-double). The NBA steals leader recorded at least one swipe in each of the four games, sending his season total to 88. Overall, the third-year NBA player has upped his streak of double-digit scoring to 18-consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak of his career.

 On Wednesday, Jan. 17 against Brooklyn at home, Simmons played in his 200th career game. Through those 200 contests, Simmons scored 3,228 points, collected 1,660 rebounds and dished out 1,608 assists. Simmons joined Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only three players in NBA history to reach at least 3,000 points, 1,500 rebounds and 1,500 assists in 200 career games.

 In the team’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, Jan. 17, Simmons scored 12 of his 20 points in the first half, marking the fourth game in a row that he scored 10-plus in the first half. Against New York on Jan. 18, Simmons locked in his fourth consecutive 20-plus ppoint game, along with his 18th-straight double-digit scoring game, helping the 76ers snap a six-game road losing streak. Philadelphia sealed the season series against the Knicks on Saturday, owning a 3-0 record this season. Simmons is 11-0 in his career against New York.

At Indiana on Monday, Jan. 13, Simmons led the team in scoring (24) and rebounding (14).

 Simmons currently leads the league in steals (88), steals per game (2.1) and loose balls recovered (77), and is averaging 15.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 8.4 assists (fifth in NBA) per game. Simmons is the only Eastern Conference player this season averaging at least 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists per contest and the only other players in the league doing so are Lakers’ LeBron James and Dallas’ Luka Dončić.

Sims-Angulo set for January 30

Anthony Sims Jr will fight for his first pro title as he meets Roamer Alexis Angulo for the WBO Latino Super-Middleweight title on Thursday January 30 at the Meridian in Island Gardens in Miami, live on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports in the UK.

Sims Jr (20-0 18 KOs) secured three wins in 2019 to further underline his credentials for landing major clashes in 2020, finishing the year with a stoppage win in Chicago in October after going the ten-round distance for the first time in April in California.

WBO #9 Angulo (25-1 22 KOs) represents a stiff test for Sims Jr’s aspirations with the Miami-based Colombian KO artist only having one blemish on his record, coming against Gilberto Ramirez when he challenged the Mexican for his WBO World title in June 2018.

“I’m delighted to be fighting for my first belt in Miami – I plan to make it the first of many,” said Sims Jr. “I’ve been ready for this step up for some time and I will prove that I am ready to mix it with the best with a devastating performance on January 30 – it’s time to bring the funk!”

“I am always well prepared when I step in the ring,” said Angulo. “On January 30, my opponent will be facing the most difficult test of his young career. I will do everything I can so that he fails. I hope many of my fans and fellow Colombians living in Miami will come out to see me give my all.”

Sims Jr and Angulo clash on an action-packed night of World championship boxing in Miami, topped by WBO World Middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade (28-0 17 KOs) defending his crown against Irish challenger Luke Keeler (17-2-1 5 KOs).

Tevin Farmer (30-4-1, 6 KOs) defends his IBF World Super Featherweight title against JoJo Diaz (30-1, 15 KOs), unified World Super Bantamweight champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 10 KOs) defending his titles against Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6 KOs) and YouTube stars Jake Paul and AnEsonGib clashing on their pro debuts.

Photo: Matchroom Boxing

Kawhi Leonard named Western Conference Player of the Week

The NBA today announced that L.A. Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for Week 13 (games played Monday, January 13 through Sunday, January 19). This is Leonard’s seventh career Player of the Week Award – first since Week 13 in 2019 (January 7-13, 2019).

Leonard, who is on a five-game streak of 30+ points, helped lead the Clippers to a 3-0 week averaging 38.0 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.7 rebounds, in addition to shooting splits of 58.6% from the field and 52.4% from three-point range. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 14, Leonard became the third player in the shot-clock era to score 43+ points in under 29 minutes played.

On January 16 against the Orlando Magic, Leonard became the fourth player in franchise history to have 35+ points, 5+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 5+ steals and joined World B. Free and Bob McAdoo as the only players in franchise history to score 30+ points in five or more consecutive games.

In his ninth NBA season, Leonard is averaging career-highs in points (26.9) and assists (5.1). The Clippers currently rank second in the Western Conference with a 30-13 record and have won seven of their last nine games.

Rodgers on loss to SF: ‘It’s different ballgame playing in 20-degree weather with snow, cold, and wind’

Anytime you win 14 games in a season, which was the case for the 2019 Green Bay Packers, you could probably call your season a success, especially when you consider that the Packers were 6-9-1 in 2018.

Under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, Green Bay had a lot of success in 2019, including winning the NFC North, but they just were not good enough to get past the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated the Packers 37-20 in the NFC title game at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.

In two matchups with the 49ers in 2019, one in the regular season and playoffs, San Francisco dominated the Packers and outscored them 74-28, but according to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, the talent gap between the two teams is not that big.

“It looks pretty big,” Rodgers said after the game. “They got us a couple of times, but I don’t think it’s that big. I think we’re really close. We’re just a little more consistent performance away from consistently playing with these guys.

“We got them at their place twice. I’ve said this before, but we’ve got to get one of these at home. It’s different ballgame playing in 20-degree weather with snow, cold, and wind. It’s a different type of game to play in.”

The 36-year-old Rodgers, who just completed his 15th NFL season, is still playing at an elite level, but he is getting older, and after how things turned out for the Packers in 2019, Rodgers thought that Green Bay could possibly win it all in 2019. 

“Yeah. It’s a little raw right now for sure,” Rodgers said. “It definitely hurts a little more than earlier in the career just because you realize how difficult it is to get to this spot. With all of the changes this offseason, the installation of a new system, and a new program, to get to this point, you feel like it was something special because it just didn’t really make sense.

“We weren’t picked by most people to win our division, but we found a way to not only do that but to win a home playoff game and get to this spot. It just kind of felt like it was meant to be almost, so that was a little bit disappointing. It’s a little more disappointing when you realize that I don’t have the same number of years ahead of me as I do behind me.”

The Packers will always have a shot as long as Rodgers is playing at an elite level. However, they have to improve their run defense and get Rodgers more to work with on offense. In reality, anytime you give up 285 yards on the ground as they did against the 49ers on Sunday, it’s tough to win, and while they won 13 games in the regular season, this team was not championship-caliber, which means they have more work to do in the offseason to make this roster better.

Alvarez: ‘I wanted to come back as the fighter that beat Kovalev’

The first man to land his Sunday punch was going to win the fight. Former world champion Eleider “Storm” Alvarez returned from a nearly one-year layoff to knock out Michael “Cannon Handz” Seals with a single overhand right at the end of the seventh round Saturday evening at Turning Stone Resort Casino.

Alvarez (25-1, 13 KOs) is back following a disappointing decision defeat to Sergey Kovalev last February, the man he knocked out to win the WBO light heavyweight world title. Seals (24-3, 18 KOs), one of boxing’s biggest punchers, saw his four-bout winning streak come to an end.

“During training camp, we practiced {the right hand} over and over. My trainer was mad at me at first because I wasn’t doing what he was asking. Finally, we got the knockout,” Alvarez said. “I was out of the ring for 11 months. I wanted to come back as the fighter that beat Kovalev, and this is what we practiced for.”

Verdejo Back in Lightweight Mix

Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo 2.0 is off to a smooth start. Verdejo (26-1, 16 KOs), in his first fight since linking up with noted trainer Ismael Salas, outboxed Manuel Rey Rojas (18-4, 5 KOs) over 10 rounds in the lightweight co-feature by scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93.

Verdejo has now won three in a row since the lone defeat of his career and, at 26 years old, is entering what should be his physical prime.

“I give myself a ‘C.’ I want to keep working hard and keep developing because I want to look like an ‘A’ fighter,” Verdejo said. “I have the desire. I have the hunger. I’m going to keep working hard for all the Puerto Ricans and all the Boricuas.”

— Abraham “El Super” Nova (18-0, 14 KOs) had a dominant Top Rank debut, knocking out Mexican veteran Pedro Navarrete (30-25-3, 19 Kos) in round four of a scheduled eight-round lightweight bout. Nova has now won four in a row via stoppage.

“I knew I had to be patient in there because he’s a tough, awkward fighter. I also wanted to be patient because I hadn’t fought in a bit and wanted to get some rounds in,” Nova said. “I could’ve taken him out a little earlier, but I needed the rounds. When my trainer told me to knock him out, I went out there and ended the fight.”

— Former junior lightweight world title challenger Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz (25-2, 16 KOs) shut out former junior featherweight world title challenger Adeilson dos Santos (19-8, 15 KOs) in an eight-round featherweight bout. All three judges scored it 80-72.

“I am very happy to have returned to the winning route,” Diaz said. “I showed that I don’t only know how to brawl. I also know how to box very well. Before, what I wanted was to give fans wars to entertain them, but I learned that I can also give good, entertaining fights by boxing well.”

— In a heavyweight fight featuring a pair of 2004 Olympians, Devin Vargas defeated Victor Bisbal by disqualification in the eighth and final round. Referee Mike Ortega, who had taken a pair of points from Bisbal earlier in the fight, ended the proceedings after Bisbal landed a low blow. Vargas led on all three scorecards at the time the fight was stopped: 67-63 2x and 66-64.

—In a back-and-forth super bantamweight battle, former world champion Jonathan Guzman (24-1, 23 KOs) survived a hellacious second-round knockdown to KO Rodolfo Hernandez (30-10-1, 28 KOs) with a left hook to the body in the third.

— Heavyweight phenom Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson (3-0, 3 KOs) scored the third straight first-round stoppage to begin his career, knocking down Andrew Satterfield (5-4, 3 KOs) twice en route to the TKO victory.

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Rosario on Williams: ‘I knew that my power was affecting him right away’

Jeison Rosario captured the WBA and IBF Super Welterweight World titles with a shocking fifth round stoppage of hometown favorite Julian “J-Rock” Williams Saturday night in the FOX PBC Fight Night main event and on FOX Deportes from Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.

“As soon as I stepped into the ring, I knew he could not hurt me,” said Rosario. “I knew that my power was affecting him right away. This is a big victory for me and for the whole Dominican Republic.”

“Rosario was the better man tonight,” said Williams. “It was a great homecoming for my fans and I’m sorry I let them down. What went wrong tonight needs to and will be fixed. We’re going to an immediate rematch and we look forward to returning the favor.”

In his first world title fight, the Dominican Republic’s Rosario landed power punches from the outset and opened up a cut on with a punch over Williams’ right eye in the second round. Williams was landing power punches of his own, but was unable to stop Rosario from coming forward.

Watch round two highlights where Rosario opens the cut over Williams’ eye here.

“I’m so emotional in this moment right now,” said Rosario. “When I lost my last fight I said I will never lose again until I become champion of the world and that’s what happened tonight. I came prepared. I knew before the fight that I was going to win it.”

In round five Rosario landed the punches that would ultimately lead to the end of the fight, hitting him with hard straight right hands that immediately slowed Williams.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my team,” said Rosario. “I had a 16-week training camp and that prepared me for this. My life is changed forever and I can support my family in a whole new way. I realized that I was going to win, once I was offered the fight. I knew that if I made the sacrifice, that I would do what I did tonight. I knew it 16 weeks ago.”

Rosario sensed his moment and came forward with big punches, while Williams tried to hold and survive. Eventually the onslaught proved to be too much, and referee Benjy Esteves halted the bout 1:37 into the round. At the time of the stoppage, Rosario led 39-37 on two cards, with the third card scored 38-38.

“I wasn’t surprised he was so good,” said Williams. “I told everybody he’s a real fighter. I have to accept it. The cut blurred my vision a little bit but it wasn’t the reason why I lost. He was the better fighter tonight. We’ve got a rematch clause. I’ll see him again soon. I’ll be back.”

Watch Rosario finish Williams in Round 5 here.

Photo: Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions

Joe Judge on Garrett: ‘He does a fantastic job of making in-game adjustments’

Giants coach Joe Judge today announced the three most significant members of his coaching staff: coordinators Jason Garrett (offense), Patrick Graham (defense) and Thomas McGaughey (special teams). Graham will also serve as assistant head coach.

“We’re setting out to develop a smart, tough and really sound football team and that’s going to start with the coordinators setting the tone in each room,” Judge said. “Each one has experience, each one has the ability to run multiples (schemes), put the pressure on the opponent, and each one is an excellent teacher.

“All these guys were priorities to add to our staff. You have a short list when you come into this and you make sure you go ahead and take your time and get those guys in with whatever it takes. The priority is to put the best teachers and the best people around your players so you can form a strong locker room and make them fundamentally sound and situational. And I think all three of these guys bring that to the team.”

Garrett is a former Giants backup quarterback who recently completed a 10-year stint as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach. He was Dallas’ offensive coordinator from 2007 until his appointment as head coach midway through the 2010 season.

The Cowboys consistently had one of the NFL’s most productive offenses under Garrett. In 2019, Dallas had league-high averages of 431.5 yards a game and 6.5 yards per play. The Cowboys were second in the NFL in passing yardage (296.9 a game), fifth in rushing (134.6), tied for second in third-down conversion percentage (47.1 with 96 success in 204 opportunities) and sixth with an average of 27.1 points a game.

That continued a trend of offensive excellence by Dallas during Garrett’s tenure. The top-rated offense in the recently-concluded season marked the eighth time the Cowboys finished in the top 10 with Garrett as either coordinator or head coach. They were second in 2007 and 2009, 10th in 2010 and 2013, sixth in 2012, seventh in 2014 and fifth in 2016.

“I’ve known about Jason for a long time, not only through the general public as well-known as he is as head coach of the Cowboys,” Judge said. “There were guys I worked with that I came across in my career at both Alabama and at the New England Patriots that worked with Jason through their time in Miami with him. They consistently all reflected on how smart he is, how great a teacher he is and how his perspective of the game was through a different lens than most coaches. And when he sees it, he’s able to communicate it and paint that mental image to the players. And he does a fantastic job of making in-game adjustments.”

Garrett visited the Quest Diagnostics Training Center this week and spent much of the day meeting with Judge.

“We had some great conversations when we were able to bring him in here,” Judge said. “It was a great opportunity to get to know each other a little better than we had before. It was a great opportunity to sit there and talk ball and share philosophies and views on the game. It’s a great system he brings with great teaching that will allow our players to go out there and play aggressively.”

Under Garrett’s tutelage, quarterbacks Tony Romo and Dak Prescott, running backs DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott, wide receivers Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Amari Cooper, tight end Jason Witten and numerous offensive linemen became Pro Bowl players.

Garrett’s teams were 85-67 in the regular season and won NFC East titles in 2014, 2016 and 2018. He was selected the NFL Coach of the Year in 2016.

The new coordinator will take over an offense that includes two players chosen in the top six in the last two NFL drafts, running back Saquon Barkley (the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who was taken second overall, and quarterback Daniel Jones, the No. 6 selection in 2019, who threw for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games (12 starts) as a rookie. The Giants finished 23rd in the NFL in total yardage (338.5 per game) and were tied for 18th in points (21.3 a game).

Garrett began his coaching career as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach from 2004-06. He was named the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 2007. Three years later, he was elevated to head coach after Dallas started 1-7. His first game was a 33-20 victory against the Giants in MetLife Stadium. Garrett guided the Cowboys to a 5-3 record in the second half of that season. His 2015 team was the only one that finished with a losing record.

As a quarterback, Garrett played in 41 games with nine starts in a career that spanned from 1993-2004. He made all of his starts with the Cowboys from 1993-99. His career totals included 165 completions in 295 attempts for 2,042 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Garrett played on two Super Bowl-winning teams in Dallas.

In 2000, Garrett joined the Giants and spent four seasons as a backup, primarily to Kerry Collins. He spent the 2004 season with Tampa Bay and Miami without appearing in a game. Garrett began coaching with the Dolphins the following year.

As a senior at Princeton University in 1988, Garrett was named the Ivy League’s Player of the Year and honorable mention All-American. He earned his degree in history in 1989 and moved on to the NFL as an un drafted rookie free agent with the New Orleans Saints’ developmental squad. After being released prior to the 1990 season, he spent the fall of 1990 as an assistant coach at Princeton. In 1991, Garrett played in the World League and the Canadian Football League before joining the Cowboys’ practice squad in 1992.

Garrett’s father, Jim, spent more than 30 years in the NFL as a coach and scout. His brother, John, is the head coach at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

Graham, who turns 41 on Jan. 24, joins the Giants with 11 years of NFL coaching experience with four teams. He has coached in the playoffs in eight of those seasons and has been part of teams that have won seven division titles, two conference championships and one Super Bowl (XLIX).

A former Giants assistant coach, Graham was the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2019. He led a unit that had a constantly-changing cast of available players because of roster transactions and injuries. The change was particularly pronounced in the secondary, where only one of the training camp starters – safety Eric Rowe – played in all 16 games. The unit’s best player, former first-round draft choice Minkah Fitzpatrick, was traded to Pittsburgh on Sept. 17. Cornerback Xavien Howard played in five games before going on injured reserve with a knee injury. Safeties Reshad Jones, a two-time Pro Bowler, and Bobby McCain appeared in four and nine games, respectively, before they were placed on I.R. on the same day.

Two linemen released by the Giants on Aug. 31 – Avery Moss and John Jenkins – started a total of eight games.

Despite the changes, the defense helped Miami win five of its last nine games after an 0-7 start (one of the losses was to the Giants). In the season finale on Dec. 29, the Dolphins earned a 27-24 victory at New England that cost the Patriots – who won the first meeting 43-0 – a first-round bye. Graham’s defense limited the Pats to 352 yards, 18 first downs and three third-down conversions.

Numerous young defenders in Miami improved significantly under Graham’s tutelage. They included linebackers Jerome Baker, who led the team with 124 tackles (74 solo), Raekwon McMillan and Vince Biegel (who was acquired in a trade for Kiko Alonso), and tackle Christian Wilkins, Miami’s first-round draft choice last year.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions, both before he came here as well as since he’s been here, in terms of what he would want to do with the scheme,” Judge said. “We share the same vision to be able to run multiples and use the players on our roster to the best of their ability to match up against the opponent.”

Prior to joining the Dolphins, Graham spent the 2018 season as the Green Bay Packers’ inside linebackers coach and defensive run game coordinator. He helped linebacker Blake Martinez have the best year of his career to date, totaling 144 tackles (91 solo) and a career-high 5.0 sacks.

Graham spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons as the Giants’ defensive line coach. In 2017, he helped Jason Pierre-Paul lead the team with 8.5 sacks and Damon Harrison post 76 tackles (51 solo), which was second on the team and led all NFL defensive tackles.

The previous year, Graham helped the Giants’ defense become the most improved in the NFL. The team allowed 158 fewer points and 1,290 fewer yards than it did in 2015. Their 17.8 points per game allowed was second in the NFL and the team’s best since 2002.

Graham began his NFL coaching career in New England, where he spent seven seasons (2009-15). He began as a coaching assistant in 2009 before being promoted to defensive assistant in 2010 and linebackers coach in 2011. He moved to defensive line from 2012-13 before going back to linebackers in 2014-15.

During his tenure with New England, the Patriots won the division all seven seasons, the AFC twice and Super Bowl XLIX. In his five seasons as a position coach (2011-15), New England led the NFL in takeaways (150) and was tied for fourth in sacks (214).

Graham came to New England following two seasons (2007-08) as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, where he worked with the defense. He spent three seasons (2004-06) as an assistant coach at Richmond, mentoring tight ends from 2005-06 and the defensive line in 2004.

Graham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Wagner (2002-03), while he pursued an MBA with a concentration in finance. He coached the junior-varsity team to an undefeated season and also served as strength and conditioning coach and academic coordinator.

Graham played collegiately at Yale, where he was a defensive lineman for the 1999 team that shared an Ivy League title with Brown. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology with a concentration in economics and African-American studies.

McGaughey recently completed his second season as the Giants’ special teams coordinator. He was previously a coordinator for three other teams and was the Giants’ assistant special teams coach from 2007-10.

“I’ve known T-Mac from going against him as well as being in the business and I have a good relationship with him professionally and personally,” Judge said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person. He gets the most out of his players. I’ve competed against him and I knew it was always going to be tough sledding in the game there. From the perspective of having to go against him, you understand you don’t want to get him out of the building; you want to hold onto guys like that. They’re definitely key assets. He and (assistant former coordinator) Tom Quinn do an outstanding job of working together, coaching the players in techniques and coming up with schemes for game plans that allow them to apply pressure on the opponents.”

The special teams have consistently been among the NFL’s best under McGaughey.

In 2019, the Giants’ kickoff coverage team led the league by allowing an average return of 18.1 yards. The punt coverage team was tied for fifth as opponents averaged just 5.7 yards a return. Conversely, the Giants were fourth and 10th, respectively, in the NFL in punt (9.8 yards) and kickoff (23.5 yards) return average. Punter Riley Dixon was ninth in the league with a franchise-record 42.3-yard net average. He set the previous mark of 41.8 yards, set in 2018.

The special teams performed impressively in McGaughey’s first season as coordinator in 2018. Aldrick Rosas had one of the finest seasons by a kicker in Giants history as he was selected to his first Pro Bowl and named second-team All-Pro after making 32 of 33 field goal attempts and 31 of 32 extra point tries. The 32 field goals were the fifth-highest total in Giants history.

Rosas’ .970 field goal percentage was a Giants record and was just 1/100th of a percentage point behind NFL leader Robbie Gould. Rosas’ 127 points tied Ali Haji-Sheikh (1983) for the fifth-highest total in Giants history. He hit his final 19 field goal attempts, including a team-record 57-yarder against Chicago in MetLife Stadium.

Michael Thomas led the Giants with nine special teams tackles (six solo) and was the NFC special teams player in the Pro Bowl.

The Giants finished second in the NFL in kickoff coverage, limiting opponents to an average return of 20.4 yards, and seventh in punt coverage with a 6.6-yard average. The team’s kickoff return rose from 19.6 to 24.4 yards, and their average punt return improved from 5.5 to 6.2 yards.

McGaughey was the special teams coordinator at LSU from 2011-13 and for the Jets (2014), San Francisco 49ers (2015) and Carolina Panthers (2016-17) before returning to the Giants.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen