NFL teams looking for a new head coach are circling Baltimore. Since October, during both his weekly Q&A as well as the Draft Insiders podcast, Pro Football Network Insider Tony Pauline mentioned that Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has emerged as a hot coaching candidate for several teams. Here are all the NFL news and rumors we have heard regarding Martindale and his head coach candidacy.
Inside information from Tony Pauline
Most recently, during last Wednesday’s episode of the Draft Insiders podcast, Pauline said this in regards to Martindale:
“A name that I am repeatedly hearing is Don ‘Wink’ Martindale. He’s gonna be the hot name, he’s gonna be the sort of under-the-radar name that every team with a head coaching opening will want to interview. He’s a guy that the players love, he’s a guy that the players respect. [Don Martindale]’s a good coach that’s also a disciplinarian. I expect Martindale to get a ton of interviews and potentially job offers when the season is over.”
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About Don Martindale
Don Martindale first appeared on the coaching scene on the Western Kentucky staff with Jack Harbaugh, Jim and John Harbaugh’s father. From there, he spent some time in the collegiate ranks before being hired by the Raiders in 2004 as their linebackers coach, serving under Rob Ryan. He served in that role until 2009 when he joined the Denver Broncos as their linebackers coach.
He was promoted to be the Broncos defensive coordinator in 2010, working with head coach Josh McDaniels before the whole staff was let go at the end of that season.
Martindale’s career resurged when the Ravens hired him to be their linebackers coach in 2012. He served in that role for five years until becoming the Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2018. In Baltimore, Don Martindale has helped mentor and develop several NFL stud linebackers, such as C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Matt Judon, and Patrick Onwuasor.
NFL Head Coach Rumors | What teams have looked at Martindale?
Tony Pauline mentioned that the Detroit Lions, New York Jets, and Houston Texans are teams who reportedly have Martindale high on their list of head-coach candidates. Pauline specifically mentioned that Martindale is Houston’s 1B option if they cannot land Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport tweeted on Sunday morning that if the New York Jets ultimately decide to move on from Adam Gase, Martindale would be a candidate to replace him.
Pauline added during the podcast that one league insider told him, “If the Jets hire Martindale, they’ll finally be doing something right.” This is just another example of the respect for the Ravens defensive coordinator inside league circles.
Don Martindale interviewed for the New York Giants head coach job last year. Intriguingly enough, Martindale mentioned that he would bring in (at the time) LSU OC Joe Brady as his OC. Ultimately, this didn’t amount to anything as Martindale stayed in Baltimore. However, it’s worth mentioning because it shows Martindale isn’t afraid to hire young and outside-the-box thinkers.
I would also expect Martindale to be looked at for the Los Angeles Chargers job. The Chargers are likely firing Anthony Lynn at the end of the season. Lynn’s poor handling and discipline in critical situations cost his team several games. As Pauline said, Martindale is a respected coach and a disciplinarian. He might be able to right the ship for the Chargers.
Why Don Martindale?
Martindale is regarded as a brilliant defensive mind. Despite the Ravens’ injuries, they’re still playing outstanding defensive football. He’s a creative play designer, learning from the Ryan brothers and Dean Pees. Many coaches and players have called his defense unpredictable.
As the defensive coordinator for the Ravens, Don Martindale has coached the Ravens defense to rankings of fourth (2018), fifth (2019), and eighth (2020) in defensive DVOA.
While offensive coordinators are the hot candidates, there are plenty of top-tier defensive head coaches in the league as well. Mike Tomlin, Brian Flores, Sean McDermott, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Mike Vrabel prove you can win with a defensive head coach.
NFL Head Coach Rumors | Who would join Martindale’s staff?
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport tweeted that if Martindale were hired, he would add Clemson OC Tony Elliott. Elliott has served as Clemson’s RBs coach and OC this year. This would be quite a jump for Elliott, as his whole life has pretty much centered around Clemson. However, once again, it shows that Martindale isn’t afraid to reach into the collegiate box for his staff.
Martindale would also hire Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith to join his staff – a good mix of some older coaches and some new on both sides of the ball.
Bringing a fiery, unpredictable defense to confuse these hot new offenses and enforcing discipline, Martindale’s hire could really turn around a team’s outlook. While he would need time to build a defense like Baltimore’s, hiring experienced defensive coaches and fresh offensive coordinators could help him build both sides of the ball.