On my way down from the press box to the interview room after the New York Giants’ 10-7 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday, I ended up sharing an elevator ride with someone whose opinion I greatly respect.
I’m paraphrasing, but what that person said to me as we rode from the sixth to the first floor of MetLife Stadium was, basically, “does it really matter right now if there’s tension between the head coach and the defensive coordinator”?
Well, maybe not. Not after the Giants won a second straight game. Not after they intercepted Patriots quarterbacks three times. Not after creating nine turnovers and registering six sacks in victories over the Patriots and Washington Commanders the past two weeks.
Maybe the Giants will part ways with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale at the end of the season. In light of the report on Sunday that there is tension between New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, and that Martindale could soon be out of a job, that is certainly possible. The way the defense has played the last two weeks, though, firing Martindale seems to be a sure way for Daboll to lose some of the locker room support he has carefully cultivated for nearly two full seasons.
Remember, Martindale wasn’t Daboll’s first choice for the job. That was Patrick Graham, who had the job under Joe Judge and decided to join Josh McDaniels with the Las Vegas Raiders rather than stay with the Giants. That wasn’t a shocking decision. Graham interviewed for and didn’t get the Giants head coaching job, and Graham and Judge were and are exceptionally close. Graham not being comfortable staying on couldn’t have been a major surprise.
Martindale, a veteran coordinator with a track record of success, and Daboll had never worked together before last season. They are different personalities.
Daboll is a nice guy, but stingy when it comes to giving information or usable quotes to the press. He is also a ticking time bomb on the sideline, always good for an occasional eruption.
Martindale prides himself on being calm on the sideline, but he is an engaging quote machine when he speaks to the press. His weekly Thursday sessions with the media are must-listen, and usually must-write about occurrences.
They are different. As Patty Traina said to me on Sunday, they are both alphas. Maybe they can’t co-exist forever. Martindale has long pined to be a head coach, and interviewed for the Giants job when it went to Judge. He hides it well, but there has to be part of him that has some bitterness because he has never gotten to be the big boss.
If there were or are hard feelings between the two, they didn’t impact anything that happened on Sunday. Even without star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, the Giants were excellent defensively.
Albeit, they were facing a horrific Patriots’ offense. The Giants’ defense, though, put together a winning effort and allowed only one touchdown.
Daboll actually gave Martindale the game ball in a celebratory post-game locker room.
Daboll and Martindale had an extended conversation a couple of weeks ago with the Giants trailing the Dallas Cowboys, 28-0. Daboll downplayed that at the time, and Martindale called it “nothing.”
“The biggest argument Wink and I have had is who get the last piece of pizza,” Daboll said after the game. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Wink. Glad he’s on the staff.”
LB Jihad Ward, who has been a favorite of Wink Martindale’s for years, said he hasn’t seen any hatred between the coaches. “Whatever is out there in the media, that’s saying that Wink and Dabes got beef, that’s bullshit.” https://t.co/U8epEZlQvF— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) November 26, 2023
Linebacker Bobby Okereke, one of the veteran leaders on the Giants’ defense, was asked if players feel tension between Daboll and Martindale.
“I don’t feel that,” he said. “If there is, obviously our record is what it is — it’s probably just positive tension trying to get to positive results.”
While it can be argued correctly that the Commanders and Patriots are not as good as some of the teams who have had their way with the Giants in recent weeks, it is apparent that there have been defensive improvements.
Okereke said the Giants are responding “really well” to Martindale.
“We all love playing for him. We love the aggressive style of defense. We love how he keeps it an open forum,” Okereke said. “He’s always asking me, X (Xavier McKinney), Bobby McCain, different veteran guys on the team what we’re seeing, what we like on game day. I think he does a great job keeping an open line of communication.”
Winning cures a lot of ills. If there are tensions between Daboll and Martindale, which would not be stunning, I would think those will hit the back burner for now.
A few other thoughts
- Jalin Hyatt’s first 100-yard receiving game on Sunday (109 yards on 5 catches) is unlikely to be his last. Hyatt said he had been waiting for a game like this “since I’ve been here.”
“One thing I learned that Dabs taught me. It’s a humbling league. You can go out there one day and go for 100 and next game go for nothing. It’s all about your preparation,” Hyatt said.
- Safety Xavier McKinney, a player I said a few weeks ago, was not making enough impact plays, has been coming on in recent weeks. He had his first interception of the season, two passes defensed and a team-high 10 tackles on Sunday. I think he is making a nice bid for a long-term contract at the end of the season.
- I know some of you are bumming that the Giants are pretty much out of the running for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. If GM Joe Scheon loves North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye enough, he will move up and go get him. The Giants, I think, will have a shot at a really good player at a position of need regardless. Below, the NFL Mock Draft Database top 10 prospects as of right now:
- I thought Daboll’s successful challenge of a New England first down spot with 3:21 left in the third quarter was a huge play in the game. New England had scored its only touchdown on the first drive of the second half and would have had a first down at its own 40-yard line if the Giants had not successfully challenged. Daboll is 1-for-4 on challenges this season, and his first overturn came at a good time.
- The Giants missed Dexter Lawrence, out with a hamstring injury, as they gave up 147 yards rushing on 31 carries (4.7 yards per attempt). Creating turnovers and holding the Patriots to 4 of 14 (28.6%) on third down helped the Giants overcome Lawrence’s absence.
“I give credit to my guys that stepped up; from (defensive lineman) Jordon Riley, the interior, even (outside linebacker) Jihad (Ward) had two sacks today, and that’s in passing, but you talk about the run-game, he was stuffing and letting guys like (inside linebacker) Bobby (Okereke) and (inside linebacker) Micah (McFadden) run in and make plays. Big shoutout to them,” said Kayvon Thibodeaux.