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Wink Martindale's resignation leaves another self-created hole Giants must fill

The Giants can try to spin this and they assuredly will. Some, maybe most, will buy it, too. This was Wink Martindale who wanted a change, not New York. Sure, he and Brian Daboll butted heads, but so many do in this field.

Statistically, this defense wasn’t even that good, so they’ll be able to replace him — no problem.

Hogwash.

The Giants had one of the league’s best defensive minds, a true culture changer and setter, in their building and they let him walk out. That reflects poorly on all those involved.

“It’s my expectation that they’re (Martindale and offensive coordinator Mike Kaftka) are going to come back,” Daboll said just hours before Martindale resigned.

What you see is not necessarily what you get with Martindale. The cut-offs, mullet and moxy make you think he’s a thicker Gregg Williams. That couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s level-headed during games, indebted to his staff and players, and hellbent on getting the most out of them.

That personality is why he and Daboll butted heads so much during their two years together. Daboll, as television cameras illustrated seemingly countless times during games, wears his emotions on his sleeve. He’s hot-headed and has no problem publicly chewing out those for their mishaps. That works for some but rubs others the wrong way. It was one of the criticisms centered around him during his time as the Browns offensive coordinator from 2009 through 2010.

Daboll and Martindale looked past those clashes a year ago. It was easy to — the Giants made the playoffs and beat the Vikings in the first round. It was much harder in 2023, with the Giants finishing 6-11 and seeing their playoff hopes all but dashed before Halloween.

A report from FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer in late November indicated things had gotten so bad there might be an in-season change. The Giants then won back-to-back games over the Patriots and Packers to subdue some of the drama, but the Daboll-Martindale relationship was fractured beyond repair.

“I think the future is bright if you’re asking me how I look at my future,” Martindale said last Thursday when asked about his status with the Giants. “How that works out is how that is going to work out.”

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll, right, and defensive coordinator Don

The Giants can find a new defensive coordinator, potentially one as decorated as Leslie Frazier, who worked with Daboll during his time as the Bills offensive coordinator. Maybe they can lure Antonio Pierce here, assuming he’s not named Raiders head coach.

Mathematically you can see an easy route for either to have a statistical improvement. The Giants, under Martindale, finished 21st and 30th the last two years in defensive DVOA.

That is beyond ignorant.

Martindale took over a group vacant of any true game-changers (with the exception of Dexter Lawrence and Bobby Okereke) and got them to play above-average football to keep the Giants in games. He turned Xavier McKinney into a borderline Pro Bowler and Kayvon Thibodeaux into a double-digit sack artist. He squeezes the most out of Jihad Ward, Jason Pinnock, Adoree Jackson and more. Lawrence and Okereke were legit before Martindale but enjoyed career years with him.

Every defensive player on the roster loved him — they fought for him. The improved statistics and league rank were coming as GM Joe Schoen continued to infuse that side of the ball with talent and those there got more comfortable in his scheme.

That’s a plan no one will see through.

The Giants, already in need of so much, now find themselves searching for a defensive coordinator. But this one is a hole they created.

And they have to fill it because Daboll and Martindale couldn't make it work.