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Sport News | In surprise, Ravens fire defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale after disappointing season – The Denver Post

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In surprise, Ravens fire defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale after disappointing season – The Denver Post

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The Ravens fired defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, a surprising move that comes less than two weeks after a disappointing season ended.

In a Friday statement from the Ravens, coach John Harbaugh said he and Martindale, who still has a year left on his contract in Baltimore, “agreed to move forward in separate directions.”

“We had a great run on defense, and I’m very proud of what’s been accomplished and the work he’s put in,” Harbaugh added in the statement. “Don has been a major contributor to the success of our defense since 2012, and especially since becoming defensive coordinator four years ago. He did an excellent job. Now is the time to seize other opportunities. Sometimes the time comes, and it’s the right time.

Martindale’s dismissal is the first domino to fall in an offseason that could reshape the Ravens’ defense, which has struggled throughout a disappointing 8-9 season. The team allowed 369.8 yards per game during its season-ending six-game losing streak, which dashed the Ravens’ playoff hopes after an 8-3 start.

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

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

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

This year, however, injuries and inconsistencies, particularly in their well-regarded secondary, led to a dizzying fall. 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.

Martindale, who had endeared himself to people around the team with his swaggering, cheerful approach and one-liners, found himself increasingly under the microscope as the Ravens’ season turned in circles. After a 20-19 loss in Week 13 to the Steelers, Harbaugh was asked what changed on defense in the fourth quarter. After being held to three points through the first three quarters, Pittsburgh and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scored 17 points in the fourth.

“They hit [Cover 0] cover multiple times,” Harbaugh said, referring to an all-out blitz that leaves defenders in single field coverage. “You go to the well too many times, and they catch you. That’s what happened.”

Three weeks later, Martindale was asked how the Ravens plan to defend Cincinnati Bengals rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who in the teams’ first meeting finished with 201 receiving yards and assisted quarterback Joe Burrow passed for 416 total yards in a 41-17 win at Baltimore. The Ravens had just suffered a narrow Week 15 loss to Green Bay in which they committed to teaming up with Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, only to see quarterback Aaron Rodgers finish with 268 yards and three affected.

“Davante Adams, he’s one of the two best receivers in the league, and he’s not No. 2, and Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame quarterback, and I don’t think we’re even willing to buy a gold jacket for Joe,” Martindale said.

The remarks traveled to Cincinnati. Against a Ravens defense lacking starters at every level — notably at cornerback, where Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey were lost for the year and Anthony Averett would soon suffer his own season-ending injury — the Bengals rolled. In a 41-21 victory, Burrow went 37 for 46 for 525 yards and four touchdowns. Cincinnati finished with 575 rushing yards, a franchise-worst rush for the Ravens.

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

The Ravens finished the season with just 15 takeaways (nine interceptions and six fumbles), their fewest since 2015, and 34 sacks, their fewest since 2016. The pass rush finished 24th in rush rate, according to Pro Football Reference, despite the front office. offseason investment in outside linebackers Tyus Bowser, Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh. Even the Ravens’ blitz rate was uncharacteristic; at 31.1%, it ranked sixth in the league, the defense’s first time under 39.6% under Martindale’s tenure.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Martindale said ahead of the Ravens’ season finale. “We changed different things that we haven’t done in the past, because of the players we’ve had, and the resilience and the fight that each of them has.”

“With the injuries, I can say that’s probably a key thing that changed our minds on a lot of things,” inside linebacker Patrick Queen said after the season. “But at the same time, you never know how the season would have gone, you never know how the coaches would have called, what they would have preferred. … You never know how the season went and all the teams we had to play, and [if] we would have had key matches; it’s hard to say. So we will have a plan next year for sure with all the guys coming back.

That won’t be Martindale’s plan, though. The Ravens could make an outside hire for his replacement, but since Marvin Lewis was named the team’s first defensive coordinator before the 1996 season, every successor has been an internal promotion.

The Ravens’ 2022 defense will have a few holes to patch. As linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams head to free agency, a solid run defense may soon need an overhaul. Cornerbacks Tavon Young, Averett and Smith are unlikely to return to Baltimore, and Marcus Peters is recovering from a torn ACL, weakening an already inconsistent secondary. Talented young players like Oweh, Queen, lineman Justin Madubuike and safety Brandon Stephens had promising but rocky career starts.

Martindale, meanwhile, should be a highly sought-after coordinator candidate. Two years after being tied to the head coaching job of the New York Giants, he will start again somewhere outside of Baltimore.

“He can coach great players, average players, can coach them all; they’re gonna feel like King Kong,” former Ravens defensive coordinator and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan, who coached alongside Martindale at the University of Cincinnati in the late 1990s, said last year. “That’s what the big guys do. The thing about “Wink” is that he can be himself, authentic, which is why players love him. They like him to be who he is.

In surprise, Ravens fire defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale after disappointing season – The Denver Post

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