There was a time, and boy do Giants fans miss those days, when their beloved Big Blue would impose their will on some hifalutin offense and chase it out of the stadium.
And it could have been Bill Walsh and Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Didn’t matter.
It could have been Tom Brady and Randy Moss in the Super Bowl. Didn’t matter.
It could have been Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at frozen Lambeau Field. Didn’t matter.
It could even have been backup cornerback R.W. McQuarters intercepting Tony Romo in the end zone in the final seconds on the road to send the Giants to the 2007 NFC Championship game in Green Bay.
Now come Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and his Triplet receivers — Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and No. 1 draft choice Ceedee Lamb — as well as an emerging tight end in Dalton Schultz. And an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McCarthy and a talented young OC in Kellen Moore, who called plays last season for Jason Garrett.
Joe Judge hired Patrick Graham as his defensive coordinator to one day take the Giants Back to the Future, and the future must start now, Sunday at Jerry World against the Cowboys.
Graham doesn’t have Lawrence Taylor or any of the feared predators of yesteryear, which means that it is on him to scheme a pass rush and design a plan that puts his players in a position to succeed.
So for one afternoon, especially this Sunday afternoon, with this gift opportunity to climb out of an 0-4 hole and get back in the NFC Least race, the Giants need Patrick Graham to be the young Bill Belichick … or Steve Spagnuolo in Super Bowl XLII.
“They’ve scored 10 billion points a game I think or something like that, and about 30 billion yards a game [chuckle],” Graham said, “so I mean like we got a challenge right there, and then they got great players, from the O-line to the skill players and then starting with the quarterback and then the coordinator, this guy’s calling it at a high level. On top of that, you got coach McCarthy, who in my opinion’s one of the best offensive minds in the league.
“So we have a daunting task in front of us. Whatever blueprint we had the last three weeks, we gotta have a different blueprint right now.”
There is an added burden on Graham’s defense given the struggles of Daniel Jones and Garrett’s flatlining offense. Even with Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard, the Fighting Joe Judges would not have been equipped to engage these Cowboys in any shootout. Graham would catch a break if seven-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith (neck) is shut down.
Graham’s defense is sixth in total yards allowed (1,313) and tied for 13th in points per game allowed. The Cowboys offense is first in total yards (2,038) and third in points scored (31.5). “Any one play can be a touchdown with those guys,” Graham said.
Asked how much Garrett and former Cowboys offensive line coach Marc Colombo have been able to help him this week, Graham said: “A ton. Everybody can look at the tape. … It’s about the people: What affects this receiver? What affects this offensive lineman? What are his weaknesses? Mentally, what’s his makeup? They have the insight.”
Following a disastrous performance against 49ers backup quarterback Nick Mullens, Graham successfully matched wits with Rams head coach Sean McVay last week with his game-specific mantra.
“I enjoy the competitive part of it, I don’t know about outsmart, if that was the case, I would lose every time [laugh],” the former Yalie joked. “It’s not me outwitting anybody, it’s our guys outplaying the other team. If anything, I could screw it up, as opposed to having anything to do it with it being successful.”
Hogwash, of course. If that were the case, he wouldn’t be Judge’s DC.
“I believe that he’s a coordinator that’s not afraid to change from week to week in order to take away the opponent’s strengths,” defensive back Logan Ryan said.
Graham’s players play hard for him. Remember, he lacks an elite pass rusher, has rookie Tae Crowder alongside Blake Martinez and has had a revolving door at right cornerback opposite stud James Bradberry.
“I’m trying to figure out how I can teach it better this week,” he said. “How to get the information to them.”
Ryan, a coach on the field and natural-born leader, has been a godsend for him.
“He makes you better as a coach because of his insight,” Graham said, and soon added, “The most I’ve learned in this league has been from former players like Pepper Johnson and Carl Banks, Jerod Mayo when I was in New England, Vince Wilfork. It’s the guys that played that teach you the game and how to convey it to the players.”
It’s time to play some good old-fashioned New York Giants defense. Or else.