A Closer Look at the Giants-Wink Martindale Stalemate

A Closer Look at the Giants-Wink Martindale Stalemate

As of Wednesday morning, Martindale still had not officially tendered his resignation to the Giants.


The standoff between the New York Giants and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is still ongoing as of Wednesday morning, according to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, who reported that the Giants have not yet commenced a search for a new defensive coordinator because they still want Martindale back unless he formally resigns.


This wild story began on Monday when head coach Brian Daboll told the media that the expectation was for both Martindale and the offensive coordinator to return in 2024. However, he added that he hadn’t had a conversation with either man and would do so later in the day.


The conversation with Martindale turned ugly when DAboll advised Martindale of the staff changes he was planning to make, which included the dismissals of special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins, and defensive assistant Kevin Wilkins.


The dismissal of the Wilkins brothers, who are the right-hand men to Martindale, set the 60-year-old defensive coordinator off. Martindale lost his cool and lashed out verbally at Daboll, who had reportedly tried to get Martindale to understand that it wasn’t anything personal by pointing to his decision to fire his good friend Johnson. But Martindale wasn’t having any of it and reportedly stormed out of the meeting room and the building, telling people he would resign.


New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll, right, and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on the sideline. The Giants defeat the Bengals, 25-22, in a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 21, 2022, in East Rutherford.

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll, right, and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on the sideline. Martindale reportedly believed himself accountable to ownership, according to an explosive report by the New York Post. Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Is Martindale Wrong?

That sure does seem to be the case. According to the New York Post, which had the most detailed account of what happened, Martindale and the Wilkins brothers reportedly operated as though they were in their little niche, responsible to themselves and ownership.


Unfortunately for them, that’s not how things work in the NFL. Daboll is the head coach and has the final say on his staff, the game plan, and player deployment. While Martindale, Kafka, and the new special teams coordinator no doubt have input into who joins their respective staff, the final decision rests on Daboll’s shoulders.


Daboll is also a strong proponent of a collaborative approach and insists on keeping drama in-house to avoid bigger distractions developing in the media. That’s the approach he tried to take with some mid-year comments made by safety Xavier McKinney which questioned the coaches (specifically Martindale, it was later learned) willingness to listen to players.


Whereas Daboll downplayed that, Martindale aired the dirty laundry to the media and, in a way, verbally chastised McKinney for giving the media a story to run with. That couldn’t have sat too well with Daboll or McKinney, though it was believed that things regarding that case were smoothed over.


The other factor? Daboll has carefully tried to craft a “team first” culture in the locker room that also extends to the coaching staff. Martindale’s reported outburst flies in the face of that and is something that, if he does return–and the chances of that are slim–he needs to adjust to.


So Is Martindale In or Out? And Why Didn’t Daboll Fire Him?

Depends on who you ask, but as far as the Giants are concerned, he’s still in until they receive a formal written resignation from Martindale and his representation (agent Jimmy Sexton).


Here’s the problem, though, for Martindale. If he resigns, he not only won’t receive the $3 million he’s reportedly owed for 2024, but he won’t necessarily gain total freedom to pursue any other opportunities that might come his way.


The Giants could deny him interviews with other teams since Mrtindale would still technically be under contract. They probably aren’t willing to do that, so they seem willing right now to sit back and let things sort themselves out regarding what happens with the NFL playoffs and who might end up available for hire if they need a new defensive coordinator. So, there is no rush on their end as of this moment.


Martindale, on the other hand, is potentially in a different boat. The coaching carousel has already begun, and if he has his eye on a particular job, the longer his resignation and exit are held up, the more opportunities he potentially stands to miss.


As to why Martindale wasn’t fired, doing so would have meant the Giants would owe him the $3 million left on his contract, and Martindale would have been free to take on any job he wanted, including the possible Eagles opening.


What About the Wilkins Brothers? Was that a Power Play By Daboll?

No. People will point to Daboll firing Johnson, his good buddy from their time in Buffalo because the results weren’t there. Daboll understands this is a results business, and that’s how Daboll went about things.


Let’s take a deeper dive into what is known about the results generated by the Wilkins brothers, starting with Drew, the outside linebackers coach in charge of the edge rushers.


According to Pro Football Focus, out of the 125 edge rushers league-wide who had at least 100 pass-rushing snaps in 2023, Kayvon Thibodeau ranked 23rd with a 5.7 pass-rush (PRP) win rate. Azeez Ojulari, who continued to deal with injuries, ranked 93rd with a 5.5 PRP win rate, and Jihad Ward, a favorite of Martindale’s, ranked 111th with a 4.2 PRP win rate.


The year prior? Out of 134 eligible pass rushers with at least 100 rush attempts, Thibodeaux finished 95th (5.5 PRP win rate), Ojulari 20th (8.7 PRP win rate), Ward 122nd (3.8 PRP win rate), Oshane Ximines 124th (3.7 PRP win rate) and Tomon Fox tied for 127th (3.4 PRP win rate).


Hardly impressive, right? So if the Giants plan to add to their pass-rushing arsenal, which they desperately need to do, Daboll saw a need to get more out of the coaching to help that group develop.


As for Kevin Wilkins, he was listed as a defensive assistant, so it’s unclear exactly what his role was on a day-to-day basis or if he came as a package deal with his brother. Daboll felt that whatever Kevin was contributing was replaceable.


Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and head coach Brian Daboll after the defense stopped Houston in the red zone in the second half. The Houston Texans at the New York Giants in a game played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on November 13, 2022.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and head coach Brian Daboll in happier times. Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

So, How Will This All Play Out?

According to Garafolo’s report, the Giants want Martindale back, which means Daboll is willing to bury the hatchet over any hard feelings that developed for the good of the team. But the ball lies in Martindale’s court.


The ironic thing about this whole story is that Daboll was the one who developed a reputation for having a quick temper, something we often saw during games via his sideline outbursts (usually made whenever he felt the officials or opponent did the Giants dirty). On the other hand, Martindale was always the picture of coolness and calmness.


It’s clear both men are alphas, and both want to win. While this relationship is probably over–it’s hard to envision Martindale returning with his tail tucked between his legs–it sounds like Daboll is willing to forgive and try to make it work if Martindale is.


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