EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Angry that the team was firing two of his closest assistants, New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale upset head coach Brian Daboll during a meeting Monday, a source confirmed to ESPN.
The New York Post reported that Martindale “said his piece, got up, locked the door and exited the building” after the Giants fired outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins and defensive assistant Kevin Wilkins. Both came with Martindale from Baltimore, and Drew Wilkins was considered Martindale's right-hand man.
The tense relationship between Daboll and Martindale is at the heart of the impending split. It was reported back in November that the two were in a “bad place.”
A source said they expected Martindale to resign after Monday's incident. The Giants had yet to hear from Martindale as of Tuesday evening. He returned to his home in Sarasota, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon.
Martindale still has one year remaining on his current contract. The Washington Post reported that he was owed $3 million.
The Giants could prevent Martindale from joining another team if he resigns. If so, it could get even uglier.
Martindale, 60, is expected to have options if he becomes available. The Giants' two recent rivals — the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles — spoke glowingly about his scheme after games. Both could be looking for a defensive coordinator at the end of their respective seasons.
The situation unfolded Monday, after Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen met with the media for a joint news conference at the end of the season. There, they said their “expectation” was for Martindale and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka to return.
They did fire special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, but not the Wilkins brothers. That was before they met with Martindale and Kafka to see if they wanted to come back.
There were rumblings that both coordinators were unhappy throughout the season – Martindale because of his relationship with Daboll, and Kafka because of the way he was belittled when Daboll became more involved in running the offense earlier in the season. Kafka, like Martindale, still has one year remaining on his contract.
The Post reported that Daboll was adamant about getting rid of Drew Wilkins, along with Kevin Wilkins, because “there was a feeling in the building that Martindale and Drew Wilkins were creating their own fiefdom within the coaching staff, and at times they overtook Daboll and thought they just had to answer.” On each other and, ultimately, on property.”
The Giants' defense under Martindale has had its ups and downs this season. He ranked 27th overall but tied for first in the NFL in turnovers created and was easily the best unit on the team. ESPN Analytics ranks New York's defense 17th overall. New York's offense was 30th and special teams 25th during a disappointing six-win campaign that followed the playoff season.
The pressure that the offensive difficulties placed on the defense was a major factor in the fractured relationship between the head coach, who specializes in offense, and the defensive coordinator. They also have very different styles, with Daboll being an emotional firecracker and Martindale known for his composure.
But they did a good job of keeping the tension away from the players. Several key Giants defensive players insisted they were not aware of this, and the team played aggressively throughout.
New York played perhaps its best game of the season in a 27-10 win over the Eagles in Week 18. The Giants' defense was punting the ball until the final minutes of the third quarter.
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