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Wink Martindale, Giants officially part ways — report

Giants will need new defensive coordinator

New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Wink Martindale-New York Giants standoff is reportedly over. Per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, the Giants and Martindale have “mutually parted ways.”

Per Raanan, Martindale will be free to become a defensive coordinator elsewhere next season “without restrictions.” The Giants will keep the $3 million Martindale would have been paid under the final year of his contract.

Thus ends the saga of a contentious relationship between Martindale and head coach Brian Daboll.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported around midseason that the relationship between the two was in a “bad place” and that Martindale was unlikely to remain as defensive coordinator beyond this season.

Daboll perhaps engaged in some gamesmanship with Martindale on Monday morning. He said at the time that it was “my expectation” that Martindale and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka would return to the coaching staff in 2024. At the same time, Daboll admitted he had not discussed the matter with either coordinator.

Later that day, Daboll fired Martindale protègè Dean Wilkins, the team’s outside linebackers coach, and his brother, Kevin Wilkins, the assistant outside linebackers coach.

Per reporting from Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, Martindale reacted angrily when told of those firings, cursed out the head coach and left the Giants’ facility. He was later photographed by a user on the social media platform X getting on a plane to Sarasota, Fla.

Schwartz reported this about Martindale and Drew Wilkins:

There was a feeling in the building that Martindale and Drew Wilkins were creating their own fiefdom within the coaching staff, at times bypassing Daboll and believing they had to answer only to each other and, ultimately, ownership.

Daboll is all about collaboration and this was not that.

Schwartz also reported that Daboll twice confronted Martindale about the initial report from Glazer, and got no explanation.

Valentine’s View

With the information that was on hand early Tuesday, I wrote a column stating that this was Daboll’s mess to clean up and that the situation with the entire coaching staff would increase the pressure on him in his third season as head coach.

That much remains true. Some of the underlying narrative, though, about Daboll being overly harsh on his coaches has to be re-examined.

Martindale left the Baltimore Ravens after the 2021 season, reportedly because of differences with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. It is clear now, largely through the reporting of Schwartz — a veteran beat writer whose work I respect and trust implicitly — that much of the blame for the Daboll-Martindale drama falls on Martindale and his hand-picked coaches.

It’s clear from Schwartz’s reporting that Daboll suspected the Glazer report came from Martindale or someone associated with him. That, and former NFL scout John Middlekauff saying some of the assistant coaches despised Daboll, clearly painted Daboll in a bad light.

Daboll is undoubtedly intense. We have seen that on the sidelines, with his temper directed at officials and at players like Daniel Jones. He most likely has high expectations for and is tough on the coaching staff. I have said before that most of the yelling I recall him doing during 2023 training camp was aimed at coaches.

What has come to light is that perhaps it is Martindale and not Daboll who should be looked at as the villian. I have been told that Martindale bristled at suggestions from Daboll, who has not worked on the defensive side of the ball since 2001.

For weeks I have espoused the belief that it would be best if the two sides could solve their differences. If, though, as it appears Martindale had a different agenda than the head coach, that is a situation that can’t be tolerated.

Daboll, after all, is the head coach. So, Martindale is now out and the Giants need a new defensive coordinator.

There will still be heat on Daboll to get the hirings of new coaches right. We now, though, have a clearer and more understandable picture of why the Giants are where they are.