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