NFL

Why defensive coordinator will be one of Brian Daboll’s most important hires as Giants head coach

Don Martindale close up solo Ravens hoodie, sunglasses, 2019

Brian Daboll’s offensive mind and resume is one of the biggest reasons why he’s now the head coach of the Giants. He’s the one that will be most responsible for sparking some life into their dead offense and bringing out the best in franchise quarterback Daniel Jones.

But he’s going to need an experienced coach on the other side of the ball, which makes his choice of defensive coordinator one of the most important hires the rookie head coach will make.

The good news for Daboll is that there are several intriguing options available outside of the organization, including former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, who is high atop his list, as SNY and others have reported. And according to a source, he is very open to keeping the Giants’ current defensive staff together, too.

That actually might be his best and most popular choice, if he decides to keep defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Graham, as SNY has reported, is open to staying with the Giants under a new head coach, and would definitely consider it under Daboll, a source said, since they worked together in New England from 2013-15.

Graham is popular among the Giants’ defensive players and is well-regarded by Giants co-owner John Mara, who gave him a raise a year ago to keep him off the head coaching interview circuit after an interview request came in from the Jets. And if Graham stays, he could keep several assistants from his defensive staff too – again, something ownership would be good with considering the defense has been the best part of the Giants over the past two years.

Graham, though, could have some options. He interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings’ head coaching job on Saturday – his first interview for a top job this offseason. And he apparently has a close relationship with new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The Pittsburgh Steelers also requested permission to interview Graham for their vacant defensive coordinator job, too.

Of course, Daboll also has options and he and new GM Joe Schoen might want to make a clean break from the old regime. If that happens, the 58-year-old Martindale figures to be the leading candidate after he surprisingly parted ways with the Baltimore Ravens after four years as their defensive coordinator. The Ravens ranked first, fourth and seventh in his first three seasons running their defense, before collapsing under the weight of injuries and falling to 25th this past season.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham during pre game warms up as the Carolina Panthers faced the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 24, 2021. The Carolina Panthers Faced The New York Giants At Metlife Stadium In East Rutherford Nj On October 24 2021

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham during pre game warms up as the Carolina Panthers faced the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 24, 2021. The Carolina Panthers Faced The New York Giants At Metlife Stadium In East Rutherford Nj On October 24 2021

The Giants are already very familiar with Martindale, who interviewed for their head coaching job two years ago when they hired Joe Judge. Martindale left a very favorable impression on the Giants’ owners from that meeting, according to a team source.

There are plenty of other outside options too, including a couple of high-profile ones. Former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and former Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who were both fired after the season, have both had long careers as successful defensive assistants and coordinators. They are both in their mid-60s, but both could be options if they decide they want to become coordinators again.

And there’s always the chance Daboll could poach a defensive coach from his old team, the Bills, by offering a promotion to defensive coordinator. Bob Babich, the Bills linebackers coach, was a defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith in Chicago from 2007-09 and under Gus Bradley in Jacksonville from 2013-15.

Daboll is expected to move fast on assembling his staff, and he could have both coordinators in place before the Super Bowl. It’s possible he’ll conduct interviews in the next few days, even though many of the candidates are likely to be at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., all week long.

Keep in mind, though, head coaches don’t always get the assistant coaches they want. Two years ago, after all, Giants coach Joe Judge wanted to hire Daboll as his offensive coordinator, but the Bills blocked the move and Judge ended up with Jason Garrett. Two years before that, Pat Shurmur targeted Kevin Stefanski on offense and Fangio on defense, but the Vikings and Bears respectively blocked those requests and he ended up with Mike Shula as his offensive coordinator and James Bettcher as his defense coordinator instead.


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