Wink Martindale-Brian Daboll divorce could make Giants’ reboot more challenging


Brian Daboll’s job for 2024 to deodorize the stench of this 6-11 season got a little bit more challenging on Monday when Wink Martindale resigned from his post hours after the Giants head coach told reporters he expected his defensive coordinator to return for next season.

In the end, Martindale, an accomplished but polarizing defensive coach, didn’t like the way he was treated by Daboll, who coaches his players and coaches hard, and the two parted ways. Martindale undoubtedly believes he’ll latch on with one of the growing number of NFL teams who’ve blown up their coaching staffs.

Martindale is a highly popular figure among the Giants’ defensive players, so this development surely will have reverberation inside the locker room. But the players, who cleaned out their lockers Monday and departed for the offseason, won’t play another game for some eight months.

The Daboll-Martindale relationship first came under public scrutiny when Fox Sports reported in late November that the two coaches were in “a bad place’’ with “tension’’ that might lead to Martindale not lasting the season.

Wink Martindale resigned as the Giants’ defensive coordinator even though Brian Daboll said he expected a return. Noah K. Murray for the NY Post

That report came days after the Giants’ defense was torched by the Cowboys for 640 total offensive yards in an embarrassing, noncompetitive 49-17 Week 10 loss in Dallas. During that game, the two coaches were seen having what appeared to be a heated exchange on the sideline in the first half.

Both dismissed that discussion as any sort of issue afterward, but it was no coincidence that the Fox report emerged days later. Reading the tea leaves on this, it was pretty clear that Martindale or someone close to him leaked his disdain to the Fox reporter and that, in turn, infuriated Daboll, who has no tolerance for internal leaks.

“He and I talk all the time,” Martindale said afterward about the Dallas incident.

Brian Daboll and Wink Martindale seemed destined for a split after the initial Fox Sports report. Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

It seems they talked for the last time on Monday, hours after Daboll told reporters he “expected’’ Martindale to return.

The way Daboll phrased things in the morning when speaking to reporters clearly left an out for him because he said he hadn’t spoken to Martindale yet, saying, “There’s still conversations that are going to be had.’’

Safety Xavier McKinney, who had a brief public row with Martindale during the season when he didn’t think the coordinator was listening to players’ in-game input, called him “a great DC who has a great relationship with a lot of guys.’’

McKinney’s sentiments about Martindale are pretty universal among the team’s defensive players.

Still, as the winds of possible change swirled entering Sunday’s season finale, some of Martindale’s key players understood the reality of what might take place.

“We all love Wink, and we all want him to be back, but if there is a change, we’re all professionals, and we can make adjustments,’’ linebacker Bobby Okereke, a significant Martindale supporter, said before Sunday’s game.

“I think players would be a little disheartened and upset [if Martindale wasn’t retained], but in this league, there is change, and we understand that,’’ cornerback Adoree’ Jackson told The Post. “They don’t make decisions based off what the players want or think. Whatever decision they do make, whoever they being in if it’s not Wink, we’ve all just got to buy in. You adapt as players and coaches will adapt, too.’’

Wink Martindale and Brian Daboll speak during a December practice. Charles Wenzelberg

As good as Martindale’s defense looked at times at its aggressive best, the Giants ranked 26th in scoring defense (23.9 points allowed per game), 27th in total yards (361.7), 19th in passing yards (229.3) and 29th in rushing yards (132.4).

Despite Martindale’s propensity to blitz often, the Giants finished with just 34 sacks, ranked 29th in the league. So, while they were tied with the Ravens with an NFL-high 31 takeaways, it’s not as if Daboll has parted ways with Bill Belichick or Buddy Ryan.

Who Daboll replaces Martindale with could make the transition easier for him and the players. There are two candidates on the current staff who could make sense and are highly respected — defensive line coach Andre Patterson and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.

If Daboll goes outside the building, he could bring in Leslie Frazier, the former Vikings head coach and Bills defensive coordinator who has Buffalo ties with Daboll and was one of the finalists for the Giants job that went to Daboll in 2022.

An element that shouldn’t be lost in this is the fact that, as popular as Martindale was, Daboll also commands a high level of respect amongst his players, so this move will eventually sort itself out, and his players will adapt to the next man hired for the job.

“I love playing for him,’’ Okereke told The Post on Monday. “He’s got elite competitive spirit. He’s a guy that wants to win very badly, but he’s also got great perspective. He’ll chew you out and yell at you in one moment, and the next moment he’ll have his arm around your shoulder coaching you up in a very teaching way. He does a good job of balancing that.

“ ‘Dabes’ has a great personality. He’s a great leader of men and guys really gravitate towards him.’’

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