OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has built one of the most impressive resumes in the league.
His defenses have allowed the NFL's fewest yards and points in his three seasons as coordinator.
His run-stuffing game plan held the Tennessee Titans and 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry to one touchdown in a wild-card playoff game (Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith was hired as the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach five days later).
His strategy of few blitzes and varying coverages held the Buffalo Bills to one offensive touchdown in the divisional round (Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was interviewed for the head coaching jobs with the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets).
While Martindale’s defenses were shutting down others, he found himself shut out as well. There were seven teams searching for a head coach, and none even called to request an interview with Martindale.
“It definitely has surprised me,” Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "Last year, I thought he had [gotten] some buzz. I thought with as many opportunities [that were] opening up, there would be some buzz this year. So, I think what he’s been able to do as a playcaller and all the different things of just keeping the guys [and] holding each other accountable, I think he has a lot of head coaching tendencies. So, it definitely surprised me that he hasn’t gotten more interest.”
Martindale is known around the league for devising defensive schemes with the best of them, putting pressure on quarterbacks even without premier rushers. Inside the meeting rooms, his ability to connect with players and provide inspiration causes them to go all-out for him.
Last year, Martindale was interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the New York Giants, who ultimately hired Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge. This year, Martindale watched two other NFL defensive coordinators land head coaching jobs: Robert Saleh with the Jets and Brandon Staley (a first-year NFL coordinator) with the Chargers. Martindale saw Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus get two interviews.
Some suggest Martindale doesn’t look the part of today’s young CEO-type NFL coach. Martindale is 57 with long gray hair and a stocky build.
“This guy is a real coach,” ESPN analyst Rex Ryan said on the Ravens’ “The Lounge” podcast. “He’s not a pretty boy that’s there to look good in your media guide. He’s forgotten more football than half these guys that are on these [coaching] lists.”
Since becoming the Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2018, Martindale’s defenses have ranked first in these categories: points per play (.30), opponent completion rate (60.3%), yards per pass attempt (6.4), touchdowns allowed (93), number of players to record a sack (33), defensive touchdowns scored (12), second-half points allowed (401) and first downs per game (18.8).
Even though Martindale continually says the success comes from the players, he’s maintained a dominating defense despite injuries and other teams signing his players to high-priced contracts in the offseason. In his 48 games as coordinator, 65 players have suited up on defense, including 42 different starters.
“Our defense and how we played, definitely represents his personality and the way we attack offenses,” Ravens safety Chuck Clark said. “He’s done a good job of putting us all in the position to make plays from different positions, as well; whether it be ‘PQ’ [Patrick Queen] coming in and being a rookie and getting thrown out there in the fire -- no OTAs [organized team activities], abbreviated training camp -- being out there in the right spot to make plays; Calais [Campbell] coming in from a new defense -- a veteran -- and learning our defense and being able to get out there and flow smoothly with us. So, he’s done a good job with that.”
Conversely, teams have been coming after the Ravens’ defensive coaches this offseason. Defensive line coach Joe Cullen became the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator, linebacker coach Mike Macdonald became the Michigan defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jesse Minter became Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator.
Martindale has remained in Baltimore, although he made it clear last month that he’s not about to jump for just any head coaching job.
"A lot of people go into those opportunities, and they want to win a three-hour interview; I want to win three Super Bowl trophies,” Martindale said in December. "So, I’m going to make sure that it’s the right fit, and I’m just going to be myself, because that’s worked out OK for me so far."