Tension Mounting Between Giants HC Brian Daboll, DC Don Martindale?

The 2023 season has proven to be a disaster for the Giants, with the team’s on-field performance falling well short of expectations in the wake of last year’s run to the divisional round of the playoffs. As a result, frustrations appear to growing in the coaching ranks.

Tension between head coach Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale is palpable, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports notes (video link). A disconnect between the two staffers was first mentioned by Dan Duggan of The Athletic earlier this month, noting a heated exchange which took place either side of halftime during the team’s blowout loss to the Cowboys in Week 10 (subscription required). While New York followed up that loss with an upset over the Commanders, things have not gone according to plan for the organization this year.

A sticking point in this situation seems to have been the public criticism levied at the coaching staff by safety Xavier McKinney earlier in the season. Martindale publicly responded to the comments, noting it was unprecedented to receive complaints related to communication with players in his lengthy coaching career. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan confirms the McKinney incident represents a potential flashpoint in the Daboll-Martindale relationship, which at this point in a trying season is “festering.”

The pair had no previous working relationship when they joined the Giants’ staff last year. Daboll came to New York with considerable acclaim from his time as the Bills’ offensive coordinator, while Martindale boasted a general track record of success during a four-year run coordinating the Ravens’ defense. Their first season together resulted in an unexpected postseason appearance and a road victory in the wild-card round, but the team has struggled across the board this year. The Giants rank no better than 27th in DVOA for offense, defense and special teams.

As a result, Martindale’s name (along with that of second-year offensive coordinator Mike Kafka) has come up with respect to coaches who could be fired in the offseason. Strife with Daboll could obviously affect the chances of that taking place, but a strong finish to the campaign would also bolster Martindale’s case for remaining in place for at least one more year. Duggan notes that “the writing is on the wall” for special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, so at least some changes on the sidelines should be expected relatively soon.

As Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News adds, the Glazer report is only “scratching the surface” of the current state of affairs between Daboll and Martindale. A winning run to close out the campaign would no doubt smooth things over to a degree, but the Giants’ staffing plans will remain a key storyline to watch over the coming weeks and months.

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