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8 candidates to replace Wink Martindale as New York Giants defensive coordinator

Leslie Frazier is the obvious name to watch

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills
Leslie Frazier 
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Wink Martindale and Brian Daboll have parted ways, meaning Daboll and the New York Giants need a new defensive coordinator. Here are seven potential candidates to replace Martindale.

Jerome Henderson

Henderson just completed his fourth season as Giants’ defensive backs coach. Martindale often praised him as the best defensive backs coach in the league. The 54-year-old former NFL cornerback has coached in the league for 17 seasons, but has never been a defensive coordinator.

Retaining Henderson on the coaching staff was one of the first decisions Daboll made after he was hired. When Patrick Graham was Giants’ defensive coordinator, he used to say that each week he built the defense game plan by first going to Henderson and finding out how he wanted to cover the opponents’ receivers.

Henderson deserves an opportunity to be coordinator. Following Martindale, though, might be a tough spot for him.

Andre Patterson

The 63-year-old has been in coaching since 1982, with his first stint in the NFL coming in 1997 as defensive line coach with the New England Patriots. Patterson has long been considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the business. Dexter Lawrence, who has made two Pro Bowls under Patterson’s tutelage, recently lauded Patterson’s teachings.

“He’s brought out — he’s helped me craft things that I didn’t know I had or knew how to use,” Lawrence said. “He helped me get into positions that usually when I get in, I get stuck or something. He’s been a big help. That’s my guy. He’s just a coach of coaches, honestly. A ton of respect to him and how he just gets me to play and the whole d-line to play. He just knows how to relate to his players and gets us to go.”

Patterson has never run his own defense or called plays. He was co-defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings in 2020. In an interview I did with Patterson last summer, he said that before the league changed hiring rules teams he worked for twice denied him opportunities to interview for defensive coordinator jobs on three occasions.

I don’t know if Patterson still harbors ambitions of running his own defense at this stage of his career, or if that ship has sailed. The Giants should probably at least have a conversation with him.

Leslie Frazier

When you start considering candidates from outside the Giants’ organization, Frazier’s name is the first one that leaps to mind.

Frazier was defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills from 2017-2022. Daboll was Bills’ offensive coordinator from 2018-2021. GM Joe Schoen was also in Buffalo at the time. Thus, the connection is obvious.

The 64-year-old Frazier was head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-2013. He has been defensive coordinator of the Bills, Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whether the separation was forced or was his idea, Frazier stepped away from the Bills after the 2022 season. Indications, though, have been that Frazier would like to get back into coaching.

Frazier was a serious candidate for the Giants’ head-coaching job that went to Daboll. The Giants might be a natural landing spot for Frazier to get back into the game.

New York Jets v Las Vegas Raiders
Patrick Graham
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Patrick Graham

This is interesting. And maybe tricky. Graham was Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2020 and 2021 under Joe Judge. He interviewed for the head-coaching job that went to Daboll after Judge was fired.

Daboll, who worked with Graham on the New England Patriots staff, wanted Graham to stay on as Giants’ defensive coordinator. Perhaps upset by the firing of Judge, a close friend, or by not getting the head-coaching job himself, Graham chose to join Josh McDaniels with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Graham is still defensive coordinator of the Raiders, but could be looking for work in interim coach Antonio Pierce doesn’t get the full-time job. Would he come back to the Giants? That might depend on whether any bridges were burned when he left Daboll at the altar to join the Raiders.

Graham is an excellent coordinator. As Giants’ fans know, though, he is stylistically much different than the ultra-aggressive Martindale.

Sean DeSai

This might seem like an odd choice since DeSai recently lost defensive play-calling duties with the sinking ship that is the Philadelphia Eagles. DeSai, though, was a candidate for the Giants’ job that went to Martindale in 2022. It is hard to know if DeSai really was part of the problem in Philly, or if he just got scape-goated.

Maybe Daboll gives DeSai a chance to prove the Eagles wrong.

Matt Patricia

This one would be a tough sell coming off Patricia’s poor tenure as head coach of the Detroit Lions and the poor play of the Philly defense since Patricia has been calling plays.

Daboll and Patricia, though, worked together during a pair of stints with the Patriots. That connection makes the Eagles’ senior defensive assistant worth putting on this list.

Brandon Staley

Before his much-criticized tenure as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, Staley was an up-and-coming defensive coach who spent a year as defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams. In that season (2020), the Rams were first in the league in points and yards allowed.

Staley, 41, seems likely to seek a way to rebuild his reputation and put himself in position to get another chance to be a head coach. His best path would be a successful run somewhere as a defensive coordinator.

Bobby Babich

Another coach with connections to Daboll. Babich has been with the Bills since 2017. He has served as assistant defensive backs coach, then safeties coach and finally as linebackers coach since 2022. He has never been a defensive coordinator. Here’s more about him.