New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale wants to be a head coach. He was clear when the Giants hired him that one of the reasons he came to New York was that he thought it would help him on that path.
The Giants interviewed Martindale a couple of years ago when Joe Judge got the head coaching job. He will interview eventually with the Indianapolis Colts for their head coaching vacancy, probably whenever the Giants are done playing.
“It’s an honor when they put a slip in because I think it’s harder to get a head coaching job in this league than being in the Senate,” Martindale said this week.
Martindale absolutely deserves the chance to be a head coach. As a 59-year-old long-time defensive coordinator he is the exact opposite of what most teams look for in a head coach. These days teams are looking for young, up-and-coming offensive gurus. They are looking for quarterback whisperers.
They are looking for Mike Kafka. They aren’t looking for grizzled tough guys like Martindale. To me, that’s a mistake.
“It will happen if it’s supposed to happen,” Martindale said back in May when asked about becoming a head coach.
Brian Daboll is one of those coaches who got a head coaching gig because of his success as an offensive coordinator and his work helping develop Josh Allen. Sean McVay is another offensive guru who became a head coach and succeeded.
Guys like Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos) and Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur (Giants) are examples of successful offensive coaches who have failed — in some cases miserably — when elevated to the big chair.
Why? What’s the difference?
To me, it’s leadership and relationship-building.
Daboll’s offensive scheme and his work with quarterback Daniel Jones have been a big part of the Giants’ surprising success. More important, though, has been his leadership of the entire roster and organization. The relationships and respect he has cultivated that makes everyone around him want to put their best foot forward.
Tom Coughlin and Bill Parcells did not succeed with the Giants because of their Xs and Os on one side of the ball or the other. They succeeded because of their ability to get the best out of everyone around them.
Giants’ guard Ben Bredeson said one of his favorite Daboll moments came after the team’s first preseason game in New England.
“You walk out and he’s out there smoking a cigar with his friends and family,” Bredeson said. “That’s just a testament to the guy. He’s true to his word, keeps it real. He’s just a really genuine guy, and it’s an absolute blast playing for him.”
Cornerback Darnay Holmes had this to say about Daboll:
“No matter what day it is he’s going to be himself,” Holmes said. “Always a guy who’s genuine, plan-oriented, always even-keeled, never shaken by the moment or the adversity that we’re facing. That’s the type of guy that you want to embody yourself after.
“He walks around with unwavering faith and belief. That’s going to trickle down.”
Oshane Ximines is a player many thought would not be a Giant this season after three largely unproductive years. Daboll gave him a fresh start, though, and Ximines has taken advantage by not only making the team but by becoming a productive player when called upon.
Ximines tells a great Daboll story, which he said happened right before OTAs began.
“My favorite moment was the first day I actually met him, the first conversation I ever had with him,” Ximines said of Daboll. “I just felt how genuine and real of a person he was.
“He made an analogy about success. He got a piece of paper out, grabbed a pencil and drew a bunch of squiggly lines going up and down, all around in circles. He said a straight line is what you think success would look like, but the squiggly line — that’s what it actually looks like.
“We didn’t talk anything about football. He just went on about family and life. I could get a grasp of what kind of person he was.”
That brings us back to Martindale.
He carries himself like a head coach. He sounds like a head coach. Players want to play for him, and it isn’t just because he likes to blitz and lets them be aggressive. It is because he genuinely cares about them. He wants them to succeed.
This was Martindale before the Giants’ season-opening home game against the Carolina Panthers:
“This is one of the biggest changes you’ll see is this week to bring back great defense in this facility; and I’ve only lived here for a short period of time, but I know New Yorkers are loud. We need to be loud in that stadium,” Martindale said. “If you want to be part of changing this culture here with the Giants, be loud and have that place rocking where people don’t want to come to our stadium. We’ll take care of the rest, and we’ll give you something to be loud about.”
This was Martindale’s summary this week
“What a great time to be a Giant, to be a fan of the Giants. I’m so happy and proud of the defense and the way we played in Minnesota. The two fourth-quarter stops at the end of the game, it was just great to see,” Martindale said. “And I tell you guys all the time about how much I care about these guys and how close they are and selfless they are. And you saw that Sunday in that game with all those players; whatever they had to do to win the game, and that’s what they did.”
Ximines can see Martindale succeeding if he gets to run his own team.
“He’s definitely a good coach. He’s a great leader. This is the kind of dude I like to play for,” Ximines said. “If he does get an opportunity to be a head coach I think he’ll be a great one.”
Veteran Giants defensive tackle Justin Ellis also played for Martindale with the Baltimore Ravens.
“He knows how to lead. That’s the biggest thing,” Ellis said of Martindale. “Obviously the players have to put in the work, but Daboll’s doing a great job of leading us. Wink does the same thing. He’s a great leader and I could see him being a successful head coach.”
As do I. Being a successful head coach isn’t about being an offensive guru or a defensive whiz. It is about being a leader. Martindale is a guy, to me, who would be fantastic as the face of a franchise. He is a guy who would bring attitude, credibility and excitement to an organization, and many of the teams currently in the market for coaches could benefit from that.
Martindale does not fit the profile of what most owners and GMs seem to be looking for. He does fit the profile of what they SHOULD be looking for.