Once Patrick Graham was named the head coach of the National Team at the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl, the notion of the Las Vegas Raiders having an advantage in the scouting process quickly spread. After all, having staff lead prospects in that all-star type game gives the Silver & Black an “in”.
The “head start” notion aside, there’s a wholly different reason why general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels nominated defensive coordinator Graham to serve as a head coach at the Senior Bowl.
“We think very highly of Pat,” Ziegler told the Raiders official website. “He’s very intelligent, he’s a hard worker. I’ve been very impressed with his ability to self-reflect this year and make adjustments. And make improvements whether it’s from a teaching style or from a schematic area to making some adjustments on the run.
“We felt like Pat has a lot of the qualities to be a head coach in this league, and we thought this would give him great perspective and a great opportunity to jump into those shoes more so than he’s had the opportunity to do so in the past. It’s something that he’s earned and we have a great deal of respect for him because of that.”
That’s quite a strong endorsement from the general manager to the defensive coordinator. And speaks volumes of what the Raiders think about the play caller despite Las Vegas ranking 26th in points allowed and 28th in yards given up this past season.
Graham did lead the National squad to a 27-10 win over the American Team this past Saturday. And the Raiders defensive boss was appreciative of the opportunity that started with Ziegler and McDaniels’ nomination and the Senior Bowl committee selecting him to head the National Team.
“I’m excited that they were willing to do that for me,” Graham told the Raiders website. “Again, it also provides us with a head start. It’s reassuring to know that they trust me to send me here, possibly get a jump start on the evaluation process.
“Those guys have been great to me, so I’m real appreciative of that.”
The Raiders are in need of talent infusion on the defensive side of the ball and that onus falls squarely on the shoulders of Ziegler — the final say on the Raiders roster. A vote of confidence is one thing, giving Graham the ingredients so he can cook is another thing entirely.
Graham expanded on the head start Las Vegas gets by having boots on the ground at the Senior Bowl. Graham received valuable intel by seeing how prospects take to coaching and concepts up close and personal — something he can and the Raiders personnel crew can align with game tape.
“When you get a head start, that’s always good,” Graham said during a Senior Bowl press conference last week. “Just getting time to spend with them one-on-one in the meeting room and out there on the field. Being able to say, ‘Let me see if he can handle this adjustment right now.’ I’ll tell them to adjust something and see if he does it the next rep, to see how immediately they can do it. It’s been a good process to see that live and in action.”
“Because the film is the film, we talk about the film is their resume,” Graham continued. “It gets them through the door. Then these all-star games and when you start meeting them, those become their interviews. So right now, I told the guys I met with the other day, I said, ‘This is your first interview. You got in the door with your resume on film, but this is your first interview.’
“And thankfully I get to be a part of that first interview and get our hands on them. I’m cherishing the experience.”