Surprisingly, the Ravens fire defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale after disappointing season – The Mercury News

The Ravens have fired defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, a surprise shakeup that comes less than two weeks after the end of a disappointing season.

In a statement released Friday by the Ravens, coach John Harbaugh said he and Martindale, who had a year remaining on his contract at Baltimore, “agreed to move in different directions.”

“We have done extremely well on defense, and I am extremely proud of what has been achieved and the work he has done,” Harbaugh said in the statement. “Don has been a big contributor to the success of our defense since 2012, and especially since he became defensive coordinator four years ago. He’s done a great job. Now is the time to pursue other opportunities. Sometimes he The moment comes, and it is the right time.”

Martindale’s dismissal is the first domino to fall in an offseason that could reshape the Ravens’ defense, which struggled in a disappointing 8–9 season. The team allowed 369.8 yards per game in a six-game losing streak at the end of their season, which dashed the Ravens’ playoff hopes after an 8–3 start.

A beloved coach among players and one of the NFL’s most aggressive play-callers, Martindale had served under Harbaugh since 2012. After coaching the team’s linebackers for six years, he took over as the defensive coordinator for Dean Peas in January 2018.

According to Football Outsiders, from 2018 to 2020, the Ravens had the NFL’s highest-paid and highest-performing defenses, ranking in the top 10 in overall efficiency each year. In Martindale’s first three years as coordinator, the Ravens led the league in scoring average (18.2 points per game allowed) and total defense (307.8 yards per game) and finished first in defensive touchdowns (12).

“In our [defensive] The room, the way he talks to us, talks to us and just ties in with us, has translated into how we play for him,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said last January. “We have a lot of different packages, different things that people can do, all kinds of things, and he makes sure everyone knows it. He puts everyone in a position to play to their strengths Is.”

This year, however, there was a sharp drop in injuries and inconsistencies, especially in his well-known secondary. The Ravens finished 28th overall in the DVOA, their lowest ranking since the franchise’s first year in Baltimore. He also had the NFL’s worst pass defense; His 278.9 yards allowed per game was an NFL high and a franchise record.

Martindale, who was dear to those around the team facility with his swagger, blitz-happy approach and one-liners, increasingly found himself under the microscope as the Ravens’ season spiraled. After a 20–19 loss to the Steelers in Week 13, Harbaugh was asked what changed in the defense in the fourth quarter. After maintaining three points in the first three quarters, Pittsburgh and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scored 17 points in the fourth.

“he killed [Cover 0] Do coverage a couple of times,” Harbaugh said, referring to an all-out blitz that left defenders in single coverage downfield. “You go to the well many times, and they find you. That’s what happened.”

Three weeks later, Martindale was asked how the Ravens planned to defend Cincinnati Bengals’ rookie wide receiver Ja’Mar Chase, who had finished with 201 receiving yards in the teams’ first meeting, and quarterback Joe Burrows. 41- Had assists for 416 yards overall. 17 wins in Baltimore. The Ravens were coming off a narrow Week 15 loss to Green Bay in which they committed to double-teaming Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, only to finish with quarterback Aaron Rodgers with 268 yards and three touchdowns.

“Davante Adams, he’s one of the top two receivers in the league, and he’s not No. 2, and Aaron Rodgers is the Hall of Fame quarterback, and I don’t think we’re ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe just yet. ,” Martindale said.

The comments made their way to Cincinnati. Against a Ravens defense missing starts at every level – particularly at cornerbacks, where Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey were lost for the year and where Anthony Everett soon suffered his season-ending injury – the Bengals rolled. In a 41–21 victory, Burrow went on to score 37 for 46 for 525 yards and four touchdowns. Cincinnati finished with an offense of 575 yards, the worst for the Ravens in the franchise.

Two weeks later, the Ravens’ postseason hopes died down with another loss to the Steelers. After struggling for three quarters against the Ravens’ weak defense, Roethlisberger led a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, then a game-winning field-goal drive in overtime.

The Ravens finished the season with just 15 takeaways (nine interceptions and six fumbles), their lowest since 2015, and 34 sacks, their lowest since 2016. According to Pro Football Reference, Pass Rush ranked 24th, despite front office off-season investments in outside linebackers Tyce Bowser, Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh. Even the Ravens’ blitz rate was uncanny; At 31.1%, it is sixth in the league, down from 39.6% the defense’s first time in Martindale’s tenure.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Martindale said before the Ravens season finale. “We’ve changed different things that we haven’t in the past, the players we have, and the resilience and fighting they each have.”

“With the injuries, I can say that’s probably a significant part of what changed our minds about a lot of things,” linebacker Patrick Queen said after the season. “But at the same time, you never know what the season would have been like, you never know what the coaches would have said, what they would be like. … You never know how the season played out and all the teams we have to to play, and [if] We would have had important matchups; It is hard to say. So we will have a plan next year, of course, with everyone coming back.”

However, that would not be Martindale’s plan. The Ravens could have made an outside hire for their replacement, but since Marvin Lewis was named the team’s first defensive coordinator prior to the 1996 season, each successor has been an in-house promotion.

The Ravens’ 2022 defense will have a few holes to fix. With linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams in the lead in free agency, a strong run defense could soon be in need of an overhaul. Cornerbacks Tavan Young, Everett and Smith are unlikely to return to Baltimore, and Marcus Peters is recovering from a torn ACL, weakening an already inconsistent secondary. Talented young players like Oveh, Queen, lineman Justin Madubuic and safety Brandon Stephens have had promising but fit starts to their careers.

Meanwhile, Martindale is expected to be a heavily sought-after coordinating candidate. Two years after joining the head coaching job of the New York Giants, he would start somewhere outside of Baltimore.

“He can coach great players, average players, coach them all; They’re going to feel like King Kong,” former Ravens defensive coordinator and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan, who coached with Martindale at the University of Cincinnati in the late 1990s, said last year. people do. The thing about ‘Wink’ is that he can be real himself, which is why players adore him. They love that he is who he is. ,

Leave a Comment