Everyone knew what the Giants were getting when they hired Wink Martindale as defensive coordinator this offseason.
At least they thought they knew.
It wasn’t until they actually got into a meeting room and on the field when it really started to become evident Martindale is not just bluster and reputation, that everything which has been said about him and his aggressive schemes over much of the past decade might not only be true, but perhaps even underplayed.
“A lot of people claim to be aggressive but they'll blitz on occasion or like when the timing is right,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “With Wink, he's like, make them deal with us. We’re going to bring it … Aggressive. Aggressive. That's what you hear about him and that's what we’ve been seeing.”
Added defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson: “He tells our defense all the time that we’re building a bully here.”
That in-your-face philosophy he has brought to the Giants of forcing things, being proactive and being the decider in critical situations rather than the decidee? Turns out it goes beyond the field. In fact, it’s one of the big reasons why Martindale is here.
“It's no big secret that I want to become a head coach in this league,” the 59-year-old Martindale said on Thursday, his first media availability since arriving in New York after 10 years with the Ravens. His departure from there, he said, was not a firing but a mutual call, mostly because he saw it as a move that might benefit his ultimate goal.
Martindale had enough success in Baltimore to warrant sniffs from teams with head coach vacancies; he even interviewed with the Giants for the job that eventually went to Joe Judge two years ago. The perception among league hirers seemed to be that he was in too cushy of a job with a strong front office, stable head coaching and philosophies he inherited rather than developed. Heck, he even looks and sounds like a Rex Ryan continuation rather than his own coach with his own style.
If he can turn the Giants around, though, that would be something to put at the top of a resume.
It’s a big if.
But for someone who coaches at full throttle and with zero regrets – “I'm not one of those guys that's going to drive home and say ‘I wish I didn't play max coverage there,’” he said – it was an offseason shot worth taking … even when it appeared the Giants were going to retain Patrick Graham as the defensive coordinator and Martindale might have been left without a landing spot.
Graham wound up getting the coordinator job in Oakland and Martindale came to the Giants.
“It will happen if it's supposed to happen,” he said of becoming a head coach. “I tell my kids this: Wherever you're at is where you're supposed to be and that's the way I feel here now. I don't know what's in store for us or down the road, and that's the great thing about life.”
Martindale has a whole host of similar Wink-isms he throws at the players as if he is hitting a speed bag. He dropped a few of them on Thursday telling reporters at various times:
“Pressure bursts pipes.”
“At the end of the day you want the quarterback on his back.”
“I would rather them [on offense] have the headache and stay up five nights before we play them figuring out what we’re going to do.”
Who knows if any of it will make the Giants defense better. For now, it’s certainly made it more fun.
“I think we’re all enjoying it,” safety Xavier McKinney said. “Just so much aggression. It's just giving us energy. It’s giving us a lot of freedom to just go play, go attack and be the playmakers that we have on our defense. It's been fun and we've loved every bit of it.”
“He's one of the funniest guys in the defense,’ Williams said. “He throws out little comments and disses around and stuff like that and I think he has a great sense of humor. We all have a more family environment because he's like that.”
Enjoy that feeling now because not many around the league are expecting the Giants defense, after shedding several key players and leaders this offseason and retooling on a pauper’s budget, to be drastically improved once the regular season comes around. Martindale seems to recognize that sentiment himself.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Look, we'll control the narrative. That's what I'll tell you. We control the narrative. People can say what they want to say. We'll see when it's time to kick it off down there in Nashville, we'll see where we’re going to be at by then.”
Sound like someone aggressively dictating the terms of a situation?
That’s what he does.