Patrick Graham

2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-27-21 (7:05pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Giants, Patrick Graham Agree On Extension

Patrick Graham will be staying with the Giants. Emerging early as a head coaching prospect, Graham has signed an extension to stay on as the Giants’ defensive coordinator, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets.

The Jets requested an interview with Graham, but despite the veteran assistant joining the Giants less than a year ago, he has a new contract and is signed on to lead Big Blue’s defense for at least one more season.

The Giants took a step back on offense this season, dropping from 18th to 31st in points scored. However, they were still — thanks entirely to their historically bad division — in the playoff race until the end because of the defensive improvements they made under Graham.

Arriving after a year as Miami’s DC, Graham oversaw a Big Blue defense lacking on the edge — especially after the midseason Markus Golden trade. The Giants also cut 2019 first-round pick DeAndre Baker before the start of the season, leaving James Bradberry as the team’s only cornerback of note. At season’s end, the Giants ranked ninth in points allowed — a massive jump from allowing the third-most points in 2019. This understandably made Graham a name to watch on the HC carousel.

While the 41-year-old DC figures to be back in HC rumor cycles ahead of the 2022 hiring period, he will be back to build on his work with the Giants this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Request Interviews With Rams DC Brandon Staley, Giants DC Patrick Graham

The Jets will have a young quarterback under center one way or another come Week 1 of 2021, but they apparently aren’t limiting their coaching search to offensive minds. New York has requested an interview with Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, Adam Schefter tweets, and with Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Both Staley and Graham oversaw units that made major leaps in 2020. We’ve heard a little bit of buzz about Staley but there hasn’t been as much head coach talk about Graham, so that one is pretty notable. Staley is only 38, and is looking to become the next man to land a head coaching job after serving as an assistant to Sean McVay. He was plucked out of relative anonymity by McVay this past offseason, as he was previously outside linebackers coach for the Broncos.

Staley has been widely praised for his innovative schemes, and the Rams finished first in total defense by a relatively wide margin, allowing only 281.9 yards per game. The Giants finished 12th in that same metric, a pretty impressive feat considering they were 25th last year.

At 41, Graham is pretty young himself. He broke into the league as an assistant with the Patriots in 2009, and spent the next seven years on Bill Belichick’s staff. Connections to Belichick and McVay are an annual tradition for seemingly nearly every head coaching candidate. Graham was the Dolphins’ DC in 2019, his first year as a coordinator, but was allowed to leave for New York since Brian Flores was the one still in charge of the defense in Miami. The Jets are clearly conducting an exhaustive search.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Eberflus, Eagles, Giants

Matt Eberflus may resurface on the coaching carousel in 2021, given the Colts’ defensive resurgence. This is Eberflus’ third year as the Colts’ defensive coordinator, with the would-be Josh McDaniels assistant coming to Indianapolis after seven seasons as Cowboys linebackers coach. The Cowboys were ready to make a major change to prevent Eberflus from leaving. They were prepared to promote him to defensive coordinator in 2018, Ed Werder of ESPN.com reports, in a move that would have meant Eberflus replacing Rod Marinelli (Twitter link). Eberflus, however, refused to accept that promotion out of respect for Marinelli. The latter served as Dallas’ DC from 2014-19, with his tenure ending after Jason Garrett‘s 2020 firing.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • For the first time since Week 14 of last season, Alshon Jeffery will suit up for a game. The Eagles did not give Jeffery an injury designation going into Week 10, putting the ninth-year wideout on track to make his season debut against the Giants. The Eagles shopped Jeffery for several months, but given the injury-prone receiver’s contract, the team was essentially forced to hang onto the 30-year-old target and wait for his recovery from a Lisfranc injury. Jeffery also battled a calf ailment this season. Jeffery will join previously injured cogs Jalen Reagor, Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert in Philadelphia’s lineup. It will be easily the healthiest Eagles skill-position group this season.
  • The Giants deactivated Golden Tate for their Week 9 game, citing his recent effort and performance. They shopped Tate ahead of the trade deadline, and Tate’s wife expressed frustration about her husband’s role on Instagram. Tate liked another Instagram post championing a change of scenery for him. The 11th-year wide receiver, however, said Friday he did not want to be traded. “No, I wouldn’t say I was trying to get traded,” Tate said, via the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz (on Twitter). “I love this organization, to be honest. I love everything it stands for, and I want to do my part and help us win any way I can.” Waiving Tate would cost the Giants a few million in dead money, but the team is expected to cut or trade him in 2021.
  • Patrick Graham has impressed many around the NFL with his work leading the Giants’ defense this season, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes. The former Dolphins DC and Patriots assistant may soon receive looks for HC opportunities. While the Giants’ defense ranks 22nd in DVOA, that is up from 28th last season. New York entered the season thin at cornerback and at edge rusher but still has one of the league’s best defensive lines.
  • The Giants worked out two former second-round cornerback picks Friday. Former Florida teammates Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor reunited for a Giants workout. The Jets acquired Wilson from the Colts earlier this year but cut him. Tabor has not played since the 2018 season.
  • The Eagles will be without defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn this week, Tim McManus of ESPN.com tweets. An Eagles coach tested positive for COVID-19 this week. The team has not identified the staffer, but Washburn’s absence provides an indication he contracted the coronavirus. Washburn serves in an interesting capacity with the Eagles, working as a senior defensive assistant and director of player personnel. He previously coached the Bears and Lions’ offensive lines.

Giants To Hire Patrick Graham As DC, Dolphins Promote Josh Boyer

The Giants officially have a new defensive coordinator. New York is hiring Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, a source told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). In a corresponding move, Miami is promoting Josh Boyer to replace Graham, Pelissero tweets.

Graham was already the defensive play-caller in Miami, but the team allowed him to interview anyway. NFL Insider Adam Caplan says Graham will also be given the title of assistant head coach in New York, which may be part of the explanation (Twitter link).

Graham coached with new Giants head coach Joe Judge in New England, so there’s a lot of familiarity there. Graham got his start as a graduate assistant at Wagner College back in 2002 and spent most of the next decade in the college ranks before making the jump to become an assistant with the Patriots in 2009.

He also served as defensive line coach with the Giants in 2016 and 2017 under Ben McAdoo, so this is a homecoming for him. As for the Dolphins, they’ll now have two new coordinators in 2020. They elected to fire offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea after the season, replacing him with Chan Gailey. The Dolphins’ defense obviously wasn’t too good this past year, but Graham was working with startlingly little talent, so it’s hard to hold that against him.

Boyer is another former Patriots assistant who rose through the ranks under Bill Belichick. He served as cornerbacks coach for New England for seven straight years before Flores hired him to be his passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach last season.

Giants Request Permission To Interview Dolphins DC

New Giants head coach Joe Judge continues working to fill out his staff. New York has requested permission to interview Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for the same position, according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network. Garafolo adds that the request is expected to be granted.

Generally, teams are hesitant to allow their coaches to interview with other teams unless it is for a clear promotion. However, Judge worked with Graham and current Dolphins head coach Brian Flores with the Patriots, which may make Miami more willing to make an exception. Graham not only shares a history with Judge, but also worked with the Giants from 2016-17, serving as the team’s defensive line coach from 2016-17.

On the surface, it would seem like a surprise for a coach on a 5-11 team to be receiving outside interest, but entering the season many wondered if the Dolphins would manage to win any games. Miami clearly entered the season with a tank in mind, making minimal free agent additions last offseason and trading the team’s best offensive lineman (Laremy Tunsil), defensive back (Minkah Fitzpatrick), and wide receiver (Kenny Stills) early in the season. While the Dolphins are by no means a legitimate contender, they finished the season winning three of their final five games, including wins against the Eagles and Patriots.

Since Judge was relatively unknown before the Giants announced his hiring this week, little is known about the people he might target to fill out his staff. At least to start, it appears he will continue to look to the Bill Belichick coaching tree.

Dolphins To Hire Patrick Graham As DC

The Dolphins plan to hire Packers’ run game coordinator/inside linebackers coach Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Of course, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores is slated to be the head coach of the team’s new look staff, but the Dolphins cannot formally hire him until Super Bowl LIII is in the books. 

Graham has a lengthy history with the Patriots and he served in a variety of roles in New England from 2009-15. The 39-year-old (40 on Thursday) coached the Giants’ linebackers from 2016-17 before joining Green Bay last season.

Before hiring Graham, the Dolphins were said to also be considering Bret Bielema, a former collegiate head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas who currently serves as a consultant to Bill Belichick. Clearly, Flores was focused on familiar DC candidates who already know how he likes things done.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Considering Bret Bielema For DC?

The Dolphins are expected to hire Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores as their new head coach as soon as New England exits the postseason, and Flores may already have a coach in mind to hire as his own defensive coordinator. Bret Bielema — a former collegiate head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas who currently serves as a consultant to Bill Belichick — is receiving consideration for the job, a source tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Bielema’s only NFL experience has come with the Patriots, but he noted last summer that most coaches don’t return to the college game after joining the pros, so it seems like he’s now in the NFL for good. A former collegiate linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, Bielema posted a 68-24 record at Wisconsin before managing a 29-34 at Arkansas.

Another potential candidate for the Dolphins’ DC gig is Packers linebackers coach/run game coordinator Patrick Graham, tweets Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Like Flores, Graham has a lengthy history with the Patriots, as he served in a variety of roles in New England from 2009-15. He coached the Giants’ linebackers from 2016-17 before joining Green Bay last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: DeFilippo, Chiefs, Raiders

John DeFilippo interviewed for the Cardinals’ HC job, but if the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach does not land it, he could be an offensive coordinator option elsewhere. DeFilippo’s contract expires at season’s end, Albert Breer of SI.com reports. The second-year Eagles QBs coach looks to have caught the eye of Steve Wilks, who has interviewed for two HC jobs. Breer notes Wilks would want DeFilippo to run his offense if he lands an HC job. Interestingly, Wilks’ best path to said job looks to be with the Cardinals. The Bears met with DeFilippo as well but have already selected their next HC.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks.

  • While Wilks and DeFilippo could be connected, Josh McDaniels and Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus may be a possible pairing as well. Breer notes the Patriots’ OC accepting a head-coaching job could lead to Eberflus becoming McDaniels’ DC. Eberflus has coached Dallas’ linebackers since the 2011 season. Prior to that, he served as the Browns’ LBs coach.
  • The Chiefs made quick work of replacing since-promoted Eric Bieniemy as their running backs coach. They interviewed USC running backs coach Deland McCullough for the position on Thursday and will hire him, Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports. McCullough, 45, played for the Bengals and Eagles in the late 1990s and coached the likes of Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard at Indiana during a six-year stay as the Hoosiers’ RBs boss. He coached at USC for one season.
  • Bobby Johnson received a Raiders HC interview that is being scrutinized by the NFL, since it may have happened after a Mark Davis/Jon Gruden agreement, but Johnson won’t be a part of Gruden’s 2018 staff. The Raiders are firing their tight ends coach and are expected to hire Bears tight ends coach Frank Smith, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). A previous contender for the Oakland offensive line coaching job, Smith coached the Bears’ tight ends for three years.
  • The Raiders are casting a wide net for their next O-line coach. Former Patriots and Dolphins OL boss Dave DeGuglielmo is in the mix and will interview Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Dolphins, who hired DeGuglielmo to replace the fired Chris Foerster in October, granted permission for this meeting. Miami hired Jeremiah Washburn to coach its O-line, so this would seemingly pave a path out of south Florida for DeGuglielmo.
  • New Packers DC Mike Pettine hired former Giants and Patriots defensive assistant Patrick Graham, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. A Patriots staffer from 2009-15, coaching both New England’s defensive line and linebackers, the 38-year-old Graham is expected to be in charge of Packers ‘backers in some capacity, per Silverstein. Green Bay’s ILBs job is available, and Graham prefers to coach linebackers rather than D-linemen, Silverstein notes.
  • The Bears are interested in Texans offensive assistant Pat O’Hara to become their quarterbacks coach, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets. O’Hara and Matt Nagy were both Arena League quarterbacks in the 2000s, although O’Hara is 10 years older than Nagy. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets an O’Hara hire doesn’t mean incumbent QBs coach Dave Ragone will be dismissed. Ragone, a former wideouts coach with the Titans, was a possible candidate to stay despite a new HC’s hire.

Packers Notes: Whitt, O’Neil, Graham, Staff

Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt was passed over as Green Bay searched for a new defensive coordinator, but he’ll stay on with the club and receive an elevated title of defensive passing game coordinator, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Whitt was one of three internal candidates — in addition to assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss and safeties coach Darren Perry — being considered for Packers DC, but former Browns head coach Mike Pettine was ultimately awarded the position. At present, there’s no word as to whether Moss or Perry will remain on staff.

Here’s the latest from Green Bay, with a focus on coaches and front office personnel:

  • Now that Pettine has been announced as the Packers’ new defensive coordinator, Green Bay will attempt to fill out a defensive staff. As Adam Caplan of SiriusXM hinted last night, the Packers will interview former 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil for their linebackers coach position, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. O’Neil, who spent the 2017 campaign out of the NFL, served as Petine’s defensive coordinator when both worked with the Browns from 2014-15. O’Neil’s interview could be a sign that the incumbent Moss is moving on.
  • Cignetti isn’t the only ex-Giants assistant whom the Packers could soon hire, as Green Bay will also meet with New York defensive line coach Patrick Graham this week, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Like O’Neil, Graham could be a candidate for the Packers’ linebackers coach job, reports Silverstein (Twitter link). The 38-year-old Graham spent the past two seasons teaching defensive lineman with Big Blue, but was previously a longtime Patriots staffer, working his way through the ranks to coach both lineman and linebackers in New England.
  • Green Bay’s front office has witnessed major upheaval over the past several weeks, as Brian Gutekunst replaced Ted Thompson as general manager while fellow executives Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith both took new positions with the Browns. More changes will likely be coming, however, and the Packers are expected to consider college scouting director Jon-Eric Sullivan and pro personnel director John Wojciechowski for promotions, tweets Silverstein. Both men could be contenders for an assistant general manager of director of player personnel role.