It’s been an emotional few days for Philadelphia sports fans, who likely spent most of the weekend watching Claude Giroux montages and shedding more than a few tears. Giroux will go down as one of the best players to ever put on a Flyers jersey, but his departure means there’s a new longest-tenured athlete in the City – Brandon Graham.
Giroux spent 15 years in the City of Brotherly Love and Graham really isn’t that far behind. He was drafted with a first-round pick in 2010 and his story has since become one that embodies everything it means to be from Philly.
His NFL breakthrough wasn’t a clean one. Graham struggled during his early years and was once regarded as a bust. Much like Jalen Reagor will always be correlated with Justin Jefferson, Earl Thomas was in reaching distance when Graham was drafted, and his slow start rubbed some the wrong way. But Graham worked hard and kept his head down.
After an early surgery and whatever happened to the Eagles in 2012, Graham was asked to drop back into coverage under Chip Kelly. It wasn’t his strength and it showed. He was a depth piece for so long, becoming a reliable defensive asset who could get to the QB, racking up an average of 5 sacks a season. When Jim Schwartz brought back the 4-3 defense in 2016, it was assumed he’d stay in the rotation. But Brandon Graham thrived and carved out a starting role.
One year later, we all know what happened. A 9.5 sack breakout helped raise the Eagles to new heights as they soared to the Super Bowl. On the biggest stage of them all, with the game on the line, Graham ripped through the trenches to strip Tom Brady of the football, the only time he was sacked all game, to all but secure the first-ever Lombardi trophy for the City.
Since that Super Bowl win, Graham has been named to his first pro bowl and now owns the franchise record for most games played by a defensive lineman (157). His 59 career sacks currently rank him fourth in Eagles history, with 8.5 of them coming during a rampant start to the 2020 campaign.
After the 2019 season came to an end, Graham was in tears walking back to the locker room, hugging media members along the way. He assumed that was going to be the end of his tenure in Philadelphia as a pending free agent. Howie Roseman had other plans however, bringing him back for another rodeo.
Now 32-years-old, Brandon Graham won’t be round forever. His talent was never as transcendent as Giroux’s and he was never one of the elite players at his position. But that only adds to his story. Brandon Graham changed his stars to become one of the most beloved stars to play in Philadelphia.
We may only have a couple of seasons until we say another emotional goodbye, so let’s make sure we appreciate Brandon Graham while he’s still here.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire