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Change is coming to the New York Giants’ coaching staff

How much change will there be?

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New England Patriots v New York Giants
Wink Martindale
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

We recently looked at a handful of potential free agents who could be playing their final games with the New York Giants on Sunday. Several coaches on Brian Daboll’s staff could also be in that situation. Let’s assess some of the potential changes.

Wink Martindale

Around midseason, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that the relationship between Martindale and head coach Brian Daboll was in a “bad place” and that the defensive coordinator might not finish the season.

Well, Martindale has finished the season.

What happens now?

Asked if he expected to be back with the Giants next season, Martindale said “I don’t know why I wouldn’t.”

“I think the future is bright if you’re asking me how I look at my future. I think that these are things that you talk about after the season is over with because he wants to beat Philly and I want to beat Philly, and I just think that those answers will come later on in the week as far as which way we go,” Martindale said. “I know we’ve got the greatest fans in this league and we’ve got the greatest ownership in this league, and you want to have a winner, you deserve to have a winner, and so whenever you are not winning, how this league works, inevitably, you are going to have conversations, tough conversations. How that works out is how that is going to work out.”

Losing Martindale would be a blow to the Giants. The veteran defensive coordinator has done a good job in his two seasons with the team. He is popular with the players. He runs a system different than most teams around the league, and that opponents admit is difficult to prepare for and play against. Losing him would mean starting over with a new system, and by extension having to revamp at least some of the personnel. It would also likely mean a ripple effect of losing position coaches. Outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins, for example, is a Martindale disciple from his days with the Baltimore Ravens.

Martindale said “Sure. Always can,” when asked if he and Daboll could have a healthy working relationship.

What, if anything needs to change?

“I think that it’s all football related. I think that – like I said, we’ll have those conversations,” Martindale said. “You have those conversations after this last game and you sit back and you can reflect and you take the emotion out of it, the emotion, the grind, the stress of preparing every week and you sit back, and you talk things out. Say here’s where we are at, so I think that’s natural on every team.”

Mike Kafka

A year ago, Kafka was the apple of the NFL’s eye. A fast-riser considered to be on the cusp on becoming a head coach after helping Giants quarterback Daniel Jones have his best season as the Giants went 10-8-1 overall and won a road playoff game. Kafka received interviews for four of the head-coaching vacancies available in last year’s hiring cycle.

Now?

The Giants are coming to the finish line of a disappointing season in which the offense was the biggest problem. The Giants are 30th in the NFL in scoring at 14.9 points per game. Jones was a disaster before tearing his ACL and going on IR. The offensive line was a horror show. The ballyhooed additions to the receiving group of Darren Waller, Jalin Hyatt and Parris Campbell paid few dividends.

It is hard to believe teams looking for up-and-coming offensive-minded head coaches will be eager to bring in Kafka after what the Giants’ offense looked like this year. That would be a hard sell to any fan base. It’s a hard sell to the Giants’ fan base.

Regardless of that, Kafka’s future with the Giants might be uncertain. There were rumblings at times this season that Daboll has exercised more control over the offense. There is speculation that Daboll, entering his third season and potentially having a highly-drafted rookie quarterback to groom, will take complete control of the offense in 2024, including calling the plays.

If Daboll does that, would Kafka be let go? If not, would he be OK with stepping back to an offensive coordinator title that did not include control of the offense or play-calling? That certainly would not advance his career ambitions.

Kafka deflected on Thursday when asked if he expected to return to the Giants next season.

“Really, my only focus is on today and this week and preparing our guys the best we can for Philadelphia,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself as a coach, but my focus has only really been on Philadelphia, today and this week.”

If Daboll does take over the offense and Kafka were to move on, look for quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney to move up to the offensive coordinator title.

Thomas McGaughey

McGaughey is a respected coach in his second tour of duty with the Giants. This time, he has been special teams coordinator through the head-coaching tenures of Daboll, Joe Judge and Pat Shurmur.

Before returning to the Giants in 2018, McGaughey had spent time as special teams coordinator with the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers.

The performance of the Giants’ special during McGaughey’s six-year tenure has been uneven. Is that because of something McGaughey is doing or not doing, or simply because the Giants have generally had poor teams with thin rosters throughout that time?

McGaughey said Thursday that the season has been “tough.” The team’s 5-11 record, going through four placekickers, not having a trustworthy return man the first half of the season are all reasons McGaughey would categorize the season that way. Still, he bristled at being asked if he thought he would return next season.

“I always expect to be back,” McGaughey said. “I’ve got a year on my contract. I’ll cross that road when I get there. Whatever happens happens. That’s the NFL. I don’t worry about it. Never have, never will. But that’s just part of the process being in the NFL.”

Does McGaughey expect changes to the coaching staff?

“I mean, that doesn’t have anything to do with me. Coaching changes, the people who make the changes will make the changes without what I think about it, or what I think might happen is irrelevant,” he said. “My job is just to focus on trying to beat Philly this week and get our guys playing as hard as they can possibly play for 60 minutes on Sunday. And then at 7:28, or whenever the game is over with, worry about all that stuff then. But until then, I’m not worried about it.”

Other changes

I could have labeled this the ‘will offensive line coach Bobby Johnson get fired?’ category.

Johnson can’t be faulted for the string of injuries that have affected the line this season. He likely had input into the many questionable personnel decisions made along the line, but those final decisions were not his to make. So, it’s not fair to pin those on him.

All of that aside, though, the performance of the offensive line was not close to good enough.

The Giants have surrendered a league-worst 83 sacks, 20 more than 31st-place New York Jets. That’s horrendous. Far too many of those have come on twists and stunts even backup-caliber NFL linemen should be capable of picking up, and because of unblocked free runners.

Pro Football Focus ranks the Giants’ line 29th overall. PFF has the Giants last in the league in both pass blocking with a 41.3 grade and run blocking with a 40.5 grade.

Here are some other offensive line numbers:

  • Last in Ajusted Line Yards (3.31)
  • 27th in RB Yards (3.62)
  • 18th in Power Success (63%)
  • 30th in Stuffed Rate (23%)
  • Last in adjusted sack rate (14.8%)

Perhaps most concerning, GM Joe Schoen has drafted four offensive linemen in two seasons — Evan Neal (Round 1, 2022), Joshua Ezeudu (Round 3, 2022), Marcus McKethan (Round 5, 2022), John Michael Schmitz (Round 2, 2023). It is difficult to say that any of those players has improved throughout their Giants’ tenures.

The Giants need to decide how much culpability coaching has played in the poor offensive line performance.

Strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald has already been named to that role at Florida. Running backs coach Jeff Nixon could leave to become offensive coordinator at Syracuse.

There is no telling at this point if any other position coaches will not be retained or will seek other opportunities.