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HomeSportsThe messy divorce of Giants coaches: Brian Daboll vs. Wink Martindale

The messy divorce of Giants coaches: Brian Daboll vs. Wink Martindale

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’s firing of Martindale’s two most trusted assistants, Kevin and Drew Wilkins, and Martindale’s responding by saying, “F— you” and storming out of the room, according to team sources granted anonymity by The Athletic because they are not authorized to discuss the situation publicly. The Giants announced Wednesday the sides had “mutually agreed to part ways.”

Even in a decade full of dysfunction, the Martindale blowup stands out as a low point for the Giants. Such an ugly departure leads to an obvious question: How could a relationship that appeared so promising dissolve into such 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 stalemate and a desire for a fresh start led to Martindale’s exit from Baltimore.

Martindale had options, but he was drawn to the Giants due to his fondness for ownership after interviewing for the team’s head-coaching vacancy in 2020. The 60-year-old Martindale has made no secret of his desire to become a head coach, and he saw success in New York as a pathway to reaching that goal.

Daboll and Martindale didn’t have a pre-existing relationship beyond squaring off as coordinators. That competition created a mutual respect, and they found they had similar personalities when they started working together.

“I’ve always respected him,” Martindale said last January. “I think we’re very similar personality-wise. You know that when you meet somebody.” Landing a lauded defensive coordinator like Wink Martindale in 2022 was a coup for Brian Daboll, a first-time head coach. (Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Despite similar wiring as hyper-competitive football lifers, Daboll and Martindale brought different temperaments to the sideline. And it didn’t take long for those differences to surface, with tension starting to build during their first training camp together.

“You could probably see it building a little bit,” a team source said. “Like the defense is getting installed and you might have 12 guys on the field and Dabes is losing it, and he’s calling out coaches, and he’s making it personal.”

Martindale presents a brash persona, cultivated with his standard attire — sunglasses, long-sleeve white compression shirt and basketball sneakers — that makes him look like a WWE rendition of a football coach. But he prides himself on his composure.

Though it’s not uncommon for NFL head coaches to lose their cool, multiple team sources said Daboll goes overboard, particularly during games.

“On game day, he’s a madman,” one team source said. “It’s just brutal.”

That shouldn’t come as a revelation to fans who have witnessed Daboll’s red-faced tirades directed at players for mistakes during games. And it has rankled assistants to have to endure Daboll’s rants while they’re trying to coach.

“It’s to the point where you’ve got to take your headsets off or take one ear off,” another team source said. “He’s just constantly screaming. It’s like, ‘Jeez, I can’t even think.’”

Martindale spent the previous decade working for Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who has a much calmer sideline demeanor. Martindale didn’t appreciate the change to Daboll’s style.

“Wink didn’t like that at all,” a team source said. “The stares and how he just kind of looks at you, Wink couldn’t stand it.”


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