Brian Daboll vs. Wink Martindale: Inside the complicated divorce of the Giants coaches

The relationship between New York Giants coach Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale came to an explosive end Monday, less than 24 hours after the team finished a disappointing 6-11 season.

Neither side looked good as details emerged about the final hours of their partnership, with Daboll firing Martindale’s two most trusted assistants, Kevin and Drew Wilkins, and Martindale responding by saying, “Fuck you” and walking out. furious from the room, according to team sources who were granted anonymity The Athletic because they are not authorized to discuss the situation publicly. The Giants announced Wednesday that the parties had “mutually agreed to part ways.”

Even in a decade filled with dysfunction, Martindale’s explosion stands out as a low point for the Giants. Such an ugly change leads to an obvious question: How could a relationship that seemed so promising dissolve into so much acrimony?


Martindale was available for Daboll to hire in 2022 after a surprising departure from the Baltimore Ravens after 10 years as an assistant, including a top-three scoring defense in three of four seasons as defensive coordinator. A contractual impasse and a desire for a new beginning led to Martindale’s departure from Baltimore.

Martindale had options, but was drawn to the Giants because of his penchant for ownership after interviewing for the team’s head coaching vacancy in 2020. Martindale, 60, has made no secret of his desire to become a coach in boss, and saw success in New York as a path to achieving that goal.

Daboll and Martindale had no pre-existing relationship beyond facing each other as coordinators. That competition created a mutual respect and they discovered they had similar personalities when they began working together.

“I’ve always respected him,” Martindale said last January. “I think we are very similar in terms of personality. “You know it when you meet someone.”


Landing a vaunted defensive coordinator like Wink Martindale in 2022 was a coup for first-time head coach Brian Daboll. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Despite having similar connections as hyper-competitive footballers, Daboll and Martindale brought different temperaments to the bench. And it didn’t take long for those differences to surface, and tension began to rise during their first training camp together.

“You could probably see it play out a little bit,” a team source said. “It’s like the defense is setting up and you might have 12 guys on the field and Dabes is losing control, and he’s calling the coaches, and he’s making it personal.”

Martindale presents a bold personality, cultivated in his standard attire (sunglasses, long-sleeved white compression shirt, and basketball shoes) that makes him look like a WWE interpretation of a football coach. But he takes pride in the songwriting of it.

While it’s not uncommon for NFL head coaches to lose their cool, several team sources said Daboll overdoes it, particularly during games.

“On game day, he’s crazy,” a team source said. “He’s just brutal.”

That shouldn’t be a revelation to fans who have witnessed Daboll’s red-faced tirades directed at players for mistakes during games. And he has classified the assistants as those who have to endure Daboll’s rants while they try to train.

“There comes a point where you have to take off your headphones or take off one ear,” another team source said. “He’s just constantly yelling. It’s like, ‘God, I can’t even think.'”

Martindale spent the previous decade working for Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who has a much quieter sideline for Demeanor. Martindale did not like Daboll’s change in style.

“Wink didn’t like that at all,” a team source said. “The stars and the way he looks at you, Wink couldn’t stand it.”

Martindale’s philosophical differences were hidden from outsiders as early as October 2022. His comments at a press conference now read as thinly veiled criticism of Daboll’s outbursts.

“What I tell players all the time is, ‘What I owe you during the game is my composition,’” Martindale said. “There are some people who tell me I need to be more animated on the sidelines. You won’t be encouraged if you’re thinking about the next play, about what you’ll call next.”

Martindale was more open about his displeasure with Daboll’s outbursts behind the scenes.

“Wink would just walk in (to a coaches meeting) and say something like, ‘When so-and-so did this, I stayed calm. I just moved on to the next play,’” a team source said. “He would throw things and see if he could make (Daboll) angry. Dabés knows it. Dabes is not stupid. He would just float into the meeting and no one would say anything.”

As evidenced by his explosive departure, Martindale is not the type to quietly endure something he doesn’t like. That’s why there were sarcastic comments at meetings and public allusions to his preferred training style.

“His personality fits his style of defense: zero blitz, man coverage,” a team source said. “He is not a loose weapon. He is very calculating. But he just won’t budge like…

The gap was minimized last season with the last balm: winning. The Giants unexpectedly got off to a 6-1 start, with Martindale’s rollicking scheme contributing to wins over former MVP quarterbacks Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (a particularly sweet win over Martindale’s former team) and Green’s Aaron Rodgers. Bay.

The Giants made the postseason and won their first playoff game since Super Bowl 46 in 2012. No one outside the team had reason to suspect dissension between Daboll and Martindale.

“When everything’s going well, you tough it out,” a team source said. “When things don’t go well, it gets worse.”


Most observers believed the Giants’ misery this season began with their 40-0 Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in front of a national audience on “Sunday Night Football.” But a team source said there was an extraordinary amount of tension on the sideline during the Giants game. preseason starter in Detroit.

Even with most of the starters remaining, Daboll was outraged by mistakes made by players who wouldn’t make the roster. The television broadcast caught Daboll giving special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, who was fired Monday, a death star after the Giants allowed a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter of the loss. 21-16. The entire staff felt Daboll’s wrath during that exhibition game.

“That set the tone for the year,” a team source said.

The Giants never recovered from a disastrous 1-5 start. The offense, which attracted much more of Daboll’s attention, was a disaster. But the defense wasn’t much better during the difficult opening stretch. The Giants allowed 441 yards in a 30-12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 and 524 yards in a 31-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 5.

The season ended with a 30-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 9. Quarterback Daniel Jones tore his ACL in the game, but the defensive drama surprisingly attracted attention.

Security Xavier McKinney told ESPN of the coaches, “I don’t think they’ve done a great job of letting the leaders lead and listening to the leaders and captains.” In keeping with the way he handles any hint of controversy, Daboll downplayed McKinney’s comments the next day. McKinney said “everything is good” two days later.

The story could have ended there. But during his press conference that same week, Martindale spoke at length about how hurt he was by McKinney’s comments, creating another cycle of headlines. It was the opposite of Daboll’s approach.

The growing tension boiled over during a 49-17 loss to the Cowboys the following week. With undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito making his first career start, the Giants were blown out by the Cowboys. Dallas gained 640 yards and the Giants’ record fell to 2-8.

Fox sideline reporter Tom Rinaldi noted on the broadcast that Daboll and Martindale got into a lengthy argument that began at the end of the first half and continued when they left the locker room for the second half. Tensions rose when the Giants were destroyed by their rival for the second time in two months, with numerous “lively discussions” on the sidelines between players and coaches.

All the simmering discord came to the surface before the Giants’ Week 12 game against the New England Patriots when Fox’s Jay Glazer reported that the relationship between Daboll and Martindale was in such a “bad place” that a breakup was expected. After a dominant defensive performance sparked a 10-7 victory over the Patriots earlier that day, Daboll gave Martindale a game ball in the locker room in a presentation that was viewed as performative by team sources who knew the relationship. It was fractured.

Impressively, Daboll and Martindale managed to protect the players from their feud. That was important in keeping the team together during a surprising 4-3 finish with DeVito and veteran backup Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.

Players see Daboll as a player’s coach, even though they may be on the receiving end of his explosions on the wing. One veteran player said outbursts are mostly an accepted part of playing for Daboll, although they can be counterproductive in situations where emotions are already running high.

Players complained that Daboll’s predecessor, Joe Judge, made them work too hard in practice and held excessively long meetings. Daboll seems to have a better sense of how to manage players, with lighter practices and shorter meetings. The Giants made a rare run Wednesday in Week 18 and then put together a spirited effort in a 27-10 season-ending victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

“He does a good job keeping everyone together and feeling the pulse of the team,” a team source said.

That touch will be needed now more than ever with your staff. Daboll must find a new defensive coordinator and fill a handful of other assistant positions that opened up during a mini cleanup on Monday.

The problem with Martindale has been eliminated, as the veteran coach is free to seek employment with any team after agreeing to sacrifice the remaining $3 million on his contract with the Giants, a league source said. But as Daboll embarks on a crucial offseason, it will be interesting to see if the dynamic that led to the ugly divorce with his most prominent assistant leads him to make any changes.

“I have confidence in what we do, in how we do things,” Daboll said Monday, hours before everything exploded. “There are certainly many things we can improve. “That’s what the offseason is for, really, in every way.”

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Atlético; photos of Brian Daboll and Wink Martindale: Kevin Sabitus, Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

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