Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale worked for the Baltimore Ravens for 10 seasons from 2012 through 2021.
Starting in 2018, he coordinated a rabid, blitz-heavy Ravens defense that ranked second, third and second in least points allowed through 2020.
Then injuries hit Baltimore’s defense hard in 2021. They slipped to 19th in points allowed. The team missed the playoffs for the first time in four years. And that January, Baltimore fired him in what was described as a “mutual” parting of ways.
The NFL is a cold business. Sunday’s visit from the Ravens (3-2) at the Giants (4-1) would seem like the perfect opportunity for revenge. But Martindale said he harbors no resentment against Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh and his former organization.
“I always believed wherever you’re at is where you’re supposed to be,” Martindale said Thursday before practice. “John and I had conversations way back before they made the [firing] announcement about where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do. I knew there was gonna be a lot of movement in the NFL.
“And it has re-energized me, for [me] to go someplace new and try to build it again,” he added. “We’re family, John and I. It was nothing negative. It was just time, and when I say it was just time, it was time for both of us.”
Martindale was Brian Daboll’s top outside choice for a defensive coordinator when Daboll was on the head coaching interview circuit.
Initially, Daboll wasn’t going to be able to hire him, because the Giants preferred to retain Pat Graham from Joe Judge’s staff. But when Graham spurned the Giants for a lateral move to the Las Vegas Raiders, Martindale got the call and the gig.
And so far, Martindale’s aggressive but disciplined defense has been the primary reason for the Giants’ 4-1 start.
They rank ninth in the NFL points allowed per game (18.6%) and 12th in average yards (326). A major reason is their 40% blitz rate on drop back passes, Martindale’s calling card, which is second in the league behind only the Detroit Lions (41.2%).
“‘Wink’ is a great coach, a great guy, love him,” Harbaugh said this week. “He’s definitely going to have the troops riled up. I know this means something to him. It’s only natural. We’re human beings by nature, and this job definitely puts us in position to have those emotional attachments and draws to certain teams that you’ve been at. I know this was circled on the calendar, and it’s going to be a big game.”
Martindale pushed back against the suggestion that he had this game “circled.”
He said he wants this game to be about the players, as late former Ravens assistant Clarence Brooks also reminded him.
“I want this game to be about them,” Martindale said. “Is there a little competitive spirit when you go to play a team you used to work for? Sure there is. I’m not gonna deny that. Everybody knows that. But as far as circling the game and everything else, this is just the next game.”
Giants edge rusher Jihad Ward, another former Raven, said “this ain’t no personal game. This ain’t no get-back type deal. We’re here to win. We’re not really riled up about this. We had history in B-More. It was a great experience.”
But Martindale said his team needs to stay composed to beat Lamar Jackson, so he has to do the same on the sideline to set the example.
“What I tell the players all the time is what I owe you during a game is my composure,” he said. “That’s where I show you my athleticism is keeping my composure so you’re always thinking about the next play.
“There’s some people telling me I need to be more animated on the sideline,” Martindale said with a smirk. “But you’re not gonna be animated if you’re thinking about the next play, what you’re gonna call next. When you watch two people playing chess, if a guy makes a great move, he doesn’t stand up out of the chair and chest bump somebody because he did it.”
Martindale wants to become a head coach one day. He feels that day is overdue. That is logically part of his motivation for stepping out of the shadow of the Ravens to pave his own road elsewhere, although he insisted that wasn’t his thought process.
“The exciting thing about coming here is it’s year one,” he said of the Giants’ rebuild.
Sunday, he’ll have a chance to remind the Ravens of what they miss.
GILLAN BACK FROM ENGLAND
Punter Jamie Gillan, a Scottish native, credited the Giants’ organization and the owning Tisch family for “talking to the right people and the people at the U.S. Embassy” to get his passport and P1 Visa extended so he could get back from London in time. It is highly unusual the Giants did not take care of that prior to this week. Thankfully, he’s back.
SAQUON WILL BE FULL GO
Daboll said he has no concern about Saquon Barkley’s ability to handle a full workload on Sunday, despite being limited for a second straight practice by a right shoulder injury.
Thursday brought four changes to the injury report: backup QB Tyrod Taylor cleared the concussion protocol and practiced in full; TE Tanner Hudson (illness) was absent; Ward took a veteran rest day; and Gillan was a full participant.
Otherwise it stayed the same: WRs Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (hamstring), S Tony Jefferson (foot), and CBs Cor’Dale Flott (calf) and Jason Pinnock (ankle) did not practice.
Barkley, CBs Adoree Jackson (knee/neck) and Darnay Holmes (left quad), DL Leonard Williams (knee), TE Chris Myarick (ankle), edge Azeez Ojulari (calf) and WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) were all limited.
Source: Berkshire mont