Wink Martindale’s future with the New York Giants has been a major topic of discussion since Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported a few weeks ago that the relationship between Martindale and Giants head coach Brian Daboll was in a “bad place” and that Martindale might not last the season.
Friday was the first time since that report that Martindale spoke to media, and he downplayed any friction with Daboll.
“We’re fine,” Martindale said. “I mean, it’s the same thing as it was last year. It was just different because we were winning more games. It’s different every place you go, the relationship with the head coach and the defensive coordinator or assistants, especially when it’s new. It’s been, what, 22 months now, a year and a half? It’s that we’re going to keep working and keep trying to win.”
Wink Martindale talks about his relationship with Brian Daboll:— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) December 8, 2023
"We're fine. It's the same thing as it was last year. It's just different because we were winning more games." pic.twitter.com/soKswSwder
Daboll had also insisted the pair are fine.
“The biggest argument that Wink and I have had is who has the last piece of pizza,” Daboll said shortly after the Glazer report. “Have a lot of respect for Wink. He’s done a good job. Leave it at that.”
Are things really “fine” between the two? Do they have to be for the two to co-exist?
Tensions run higher, and disagreements can become more pronounced, when things don’t go well. They went well for the Giants a year ago. They haven’t gone well this year. Thus, Martindale’s “winning games” comment.
It was obvious, despite whatever they said publicly, that Daboll and Martindale were at loggerheads during the Giants’ Week 10 49-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Being en route to giving up an embarrassing 640 yards and never being competitive will do that to you.
“I don’t see eye-to-eye with my wife all the time,” Martindale said. “He’s the head coach, and it’s my job to forward his plan. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Asked directly for context on the Glazer report, Martindale began a fairly long answer by saying “when you’re 4-8 instead of 8-4, things like that come up.”
The rest of his answer revealed one of the essential differences between Martindale and Daboll.
“I think that the cookie-cutter answer is we’re focused on Green Bay. But I don’t ever give you cookie-cutter answers. I do tell you this, though, that this game always has been and always will be about the players. I want to keep it that way. I always say I owe the players my composure. I think that there’s nothing you can do when someone says something, you know what I mean? There’s nothing you can do about that. I think the response that you got from the players, there’s nothing that’s happened that way. So, like I said… I think (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) and Brian both, I’ve said it before, we’re building something here. I think you’ve just got to stay focused on that.”
Daboll almost always gives “cookie-cutter answers,” or non-answers, to questions. Oh, and I think every Giants fan knows the head coach is absolutely capable of blowing a gasket on the sidelines during a game. He isn’t always a model of composure.
No two people are exactly alike, though, and the two don’t have to be mirror images to form an effective partnership.
Is it possible that Martindale and the Giants part ways after this season, whether that is Martindale’s choice or Daboll’s? Absolutely. Would it be better for the franchise if the two can make peace, if that indeed needs to happen, and Martindale remains the Giants’ defensive mastermind? Absolutely.
The Giants’ defense is not perfect. More impact players are needed, and more depth pretty much everywhere. The defense is 26th in the NFL in points allowed per game. Things on that side of the ball could undoubtedly be better. They need to be better.
The defense, though, is not the Giants’ biggest problem. That’s the other side of the ball. That’s the offensive line. That’s still not having a No. 1 receiver. That’s figuring out what the future looks like at quarterback. That is figuring out how to score more than the 13.3 points per game that has the offense 31st in the league in scoring.
Xavier McKinney’s unfortunate outburst aside, defensive players seem to love playing for Martindale. Linebacker Bobby Okereke is one of those players who has been clear that Martindale’s coaching has been critical to his success in his first season with the Giants.
“Wink’s really kind of unleashed abilities in me as a linebaker in this scheme that I haven’t had before,” Okereke told the Valentine’s Views podcast. “It’s been fun to watch. He’s been such a mentor for me. He really does an incredible job of slowing the game down, helping me understand conceptually and really just holding me accountable for how I need to play and really holding me accountable to my mistakes.
“He empowers me to study the call sheet, almost try to guess, anticipate what call he’s going to call and see what call I would have called in that situation. He’s helped promote me into such a leader at this linebacker position. It’s a lot of fun.”
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson said recently that Martindale’s aggressive defensive scheme is “an opportunity” for defensive players and that “you can tell if something’s off, and I haven’t seen that at all.”
If the Giants and Martindale parted ways, they would have an opportunity to fill that role with another quality coach. Still, Martindale is right when he talks about the Giants still being in a building process.
Martindale’s process as, really, the defensive head coach should allow Daboll to focus his attention on fixing the offense.
Whatever differences he and Daboll have, Martindale was clear when he spoke on Friday that he wants to stay with the Giants and try to finish the job.
“I’ve said that this is not a steppingstone, it’s a destination, and it still is,” Martindale said. “I think when you’re doing something the way we’re doing it when we got here, and I’m talking about building this defense. When they build the big skyscrapers over there in the city, they put in the pilings. That’s not fun to watch. It’s fun to go see the building after it’s done. Right now, we’re still putting in the pilings in year two.”
Martindale has been in coaching since 1986 and in the NFL since 2004. He’s wise enough to know what he doesn’t know, and what he doesn’t know is whether he will be back with the Giants in 2024.
“As far as the answer where I’m going to be at, no one knows that,” Martindale said. “I know that—I say we, Laura [Martindale] and myself have worked hard enough and long enough in this league that at the end of year, hopefully you have all kinds of choices. Might be grabbing my golf clubs and go play golf in Florida. Hopefully, it’s a raise. Don’t we all want raises? Yeah, we all do. So, I mean, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t predict the future.”
There have undeniably been bumps in the road for the Giants this season. The head coach and defensive coordinator are both competitive alpha males. They disagree sometimes.
In my view, though, it would be best for the Giants if they can iron out whatever issues they may have and try to continue what they have started.