Monday, May 23, 2022

Surprisingly, the Ravens fired defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale after a disappointing season.

The Ravens have fired defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale in a surprise shake-up that comes less than two weeks into a disappointing season.

In a Ravens statement released Friday, coach John Harbaugh said he and Martindale, who had a one-year contract remaining in Baltimore, “agreed to move forward in separate directions.”

“We did a great job defensively and I’m very proud of what was done and the work he did,” Harbaugh added in a statement. “Don has been a big contributor to the success of our defense since 2012, especially since he became defense coordinator four years ago. He did a great job. Now it’s time to use other possibilities. Sometimes the moment comes and it’s the right time.”

Martindale’s sacking is the first domino to fall this offseason that could change the Ravens’ defense, which has struggled through a disappointing 8-9 season. The team allowed 369.8 yards per game during their season-ending six-game losing streak, which shattered the Ravens’ playoff hopes after starting 8–3.

Martindale, the player’s favorite coach and one of the NFL’s most aggressive players, has served under Harbaugh since 2012. After six years of coaching the team’s linebackers, he took over as defensive coordinator for Dean Peace in January 2018.

From 2018 to 2020, the Ravens had one of the highest paid and most effective defenses in the NFL, ranking in the top 10 in overall effectiveness each year, according to Football Outsiders. In Martindale’s first three years as coordinator, the Ravens led the league in scoring average (18.2 points per game) and total defense (307.8 yards per game) and tied for first place in defensive touchdowns (12).

“In our [defensive] room, the way he talks to us, talks to us and just treats us, it reflects the way we play for him,” defender Jimmy Smith said last January. “We have a lot of different packages, different things that guys can do, all kinds of things, and he makes sure everyone knows it. He puts everyone in a position to play to their strengths.”

This year, however, injuries and inconsistencies, especially in their well-established secondary group, have led to a steep drop. The Ravens finished 28th overall in the DVOA, their lowest ranking since the franchise’s first year in Baltimore. They also had the worst pass defense in the NFL; their 278.9 yards allowed per game was an NFL and franchise record.

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Martindale, which everyone around the team liked for its swaggering, blitz-happy approach and one-liners, increasingly came under the microscope as the Ravens’ season spiraled. After a 20–19 loss in Week 13 to the Steelers, Harbaugh was asked how the defense changed in the fourth quarter. After scoring three points in the first three quarters, Pittsburgh and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scored 17 points in the fourth.

“They hit [Cover 0] a couple of times,” said Harbaugh, referring to the all-out blitz that leaves the defenders in the only cover in the bottom of the field. “You go to the well too many times and they get you. That’s what happened.”

Three weeks later, Martindale was asked how the Ravens planned to defend Cincinnati Bengals rookie Jamarr Chase, who finished with 201 receiving yards in the first meeting and helped quarterback Joe Burrow pass for 416 yards overall in 41st. 17 wins in Baltimore. The Ravens narrowly lost to Green Bay in Week 15, in which they committed to teaming with Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, only to see quarterback Aaron Rodgers finish with 268 yards and three touchdowns.

“Davante Adams is one of the top two wide receivers in the league and he’s not #2 but Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Famer quarterback and I don’t think we’re ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe. ” Martindale said.

The remarks reached Cincinnati. Against the Ravens’ defense, lacking a starting lineup at all levels – especially at cornerback, where Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey were lost during the year and where Anthony Averett was soon to suffer his own injury at the end of the season – the Bengals rolled. In the 41–21 win, Burrow went 37 of 46 for 525 yards and four touchdowns. Cincinnati finished with 575 rushing yards, the Ravens’ worst showing.

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

The Ravens finished the season with just 15 rushes (nine interceptions and six fumbles), the lowest since 2015, and 34 sacks, the lowest since 2016. off-season investments in linebackers Tyus Bowser, Justin Houston and Odafe Ove. Even the Ravens’ blitz speed was uncharacteristic; at 31.1%, he finished sixth in the league, the first time since Martindale’s tenure at the defense that the rate was below 39.6%.

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“It wasn’t always easy,” Martindale said ahead of the Ravens’ season finale. “We changed different things that we didn’t do in the past because of the players we had and the resilience and struggle that each of them has.”

“In terms of injuries, I can say that it’s probably the key part that changed our minds about a lot of things,” inside midfielder Patrick Queen said after the season. “But at the same time, you never know how the season would turn out, you never know what the coach would be called, what they would prefer. … You never know how the season went, and with all the teams we had to play and [if] we would have key matches; Hard to say. So we will definitely have a plan for next year when all the guys are back.”

However, this will not be Martindale’s plan. The Ravens could have hired him as a replacement, but since Marvin Lewis was named the team’s first defensive coordinator ahead of the 1996 season, each successor has been promoted within the company.

There are holes in the Ravens’ defense in 2022 that need to be fixed. With linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams transitioning to free agency, the strong run defense may soon need an overhaul. Full-backs Tavon Young, Averett and Smith are unlikely to return to Baltimore, and Marcus Peters is recovering from an ACL tear, weakening an already fickle minor player. Talented young players such as Oveh, Quin, linesman Justin Madubuke and defenseman Brandon Stevens started their careers with promise but failure.

Martindale is expected to be a highly sought-after candidate for the coordinator position. Two years after being put in the New York Giants head coaching job, he’s starting over somewhere outside of Baltimore.

“He can train great players, average players, he can train 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. “That’s what the greats do. The peculiarity of “Wink” is that he can be himself, sincere, so the players like him. They like him the way he is.”

Nation World News Desk
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