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Wink Martindale Out as Ravens Defensive Coordinator

Wink Martindale on the sideline against the Cincinnati Bengals
Phil Hoffmann/Baltimore Ravens
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On Friday evening, the Baltimore Ravens announced that defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and the team were parting ways.

This was John Harbaugh’s statement, per the team’s official release of the news:

“After several productive conversations, Don and I have agreed to move forward in separate directions. We have had a great run on defense, and I am very proud of what has been accomplished and the work he has done. Don has been a major contributor to the success of our defense since 2012, and especially since he became defensive coordinator four years ago. He has done a great job. Now it is time to pursue other opportunities. Sometimes the moment comes, and it’s the right time. I am personally grateful for our friendship and for everything he has done in Baltimore.”

RSR staff react to the announcement here…

Derek Arnold

While #RavensFlock was waiting with bated breath for the axe to fall on the other coordinator, Wink ended up being the one to go, at least for now. Several times this season, Harbaugh had some comments after games that made it seem like he was less than pleased with his DC.

Wink came into 2021 expecting to be playing with a full deck, and by the end he was left with a shell of the defense he thought he would have. His entire secondary was gone, all of his “MonStars” up front missed time (one of them the entire season), and as a result his library of exotic blitzes was pared down to a post-it note’s worth. I don’t know how anyone can fault Wink too much for the results considering all the injuries. Maybe he went to the well a few times too often with his Cover Zero looks, but hey, “you dance with the one that brought ya,” right?

That said, many Ravens fans have noticed that players like Za’Darius Smith, Matt Judon, and Yannick Ngakoue have left Baltimore and suddenly become sack machines. Perhaps a scheme change was indeed in order?

I’ll remember Wink’s time in Baltimore fondly. Looking back on this year, the Kansas City and San Diego game plans were masterful. Later on, he managed to keep Matt Stafford and the Rams in check with a M*A*S*H unit out there.

Remember the guy before Wink? Dean “Swiss” Pees? Yeah, give me Wink any day over him. Happy trails, Don. Hope you land a head coaching gig.

Nikhil Mehta

The language of John Harbaugh’s statement makes me think two things:

1) The Ravens wanted to move away from Wink’s blitz-heavy defensive philosophy.

2) With coaches like Brian Flores and Mike Zimmer suddenly available, Harbs may have a good idea of who he wants, should his favored target not land a head coaching gig.

Wink has been a great DC, and I hope he gets a shot as a head coach soon!

Chad Racine

Not happy about this but it’s part of the business. I’m sure most people would be happier if this was Greg Roman but I’m not one of those people. I was hoping both coordinators could’ve been retained. My guess is the Ravens stay in house with Wink’s replacement. Maybe Anthony Weaver.

Ron Toothe

Wink Martindale parting ways with the Ravens likely means there will be a much simpler defensive scheme in Baltimore going forward. A unit that will likely see a lot of turnaround in terms of talent and youth will now be able to process and learn the new scheme much more smoothly/quickly (whoever the new hire may be). Expect to see fewer breakdowns and miscommunication in the secondary, which means less big plays and wide receivers running free, a staple of the 2021 Ravens defense. Bringing in players who can effectively get to the QB on a consistent basis while only rushing four should be high on the priority list.

A bittersweet move, as Wink has been beloved in Baltimore for a long time. We’ll all surely miss him standing on the sidelines on Sundays, but something tells me this move will ultimately be the best for him and the Ravens.

Darin McCann

I really didn’t have this on my immediate radar, but it doesn’t really blow my mind, either. The Ravens have been morphing into a more-analytical organization over recent years, and Martindale has at least given the impression of preferring a more “by the gut” approach.

Martindale has done a terrific job in Baltimore for years, and his tenure should be remembered by the faithful with reverence. But his defense wasn’t forcing turnovers, and they weren’t generating sacks.

Ultimately, that inability to “flip the field” consistently is probably what forced the decision. While the Ravens have historically promoted from within for this position, it wouldn’t shock me to see them pursue someone who utilizes a four-man rush predominately, particularly in an off-season that should see a huge emphasis on rebuilding that defensive front.

Rob Shields

I didn’t expect this to happen but I can’t say I’m surprised either. In my recent series of articles, I talked about the need for a philosophical change throughout the organization and while I do think the defense usually played well, the lack of pass rush without blitzing was a concern.

The team blew too many 4th quarter leads over the last several years and an inability to generate a pass rush with the front four is part of the issue.

Aaron Wilson reported that philosophical differences were in play here. We probably won’t know what that means but we know what Wink liked to do and we know what his team struggled with, so we can kind of guess what the issues were.

The average coordinator lasts just under three years, so it’s not entirely surprising to want a new voice. I do expect the hire to come from within, with Chris Hewitt and Anthony Weaver being the clubhouse favorites.

All of that being said, if they don’t move on from Greg Roman, this is a hollow decision that won’t likely have any impact. I don’t get how the Roman decision hasn’t already been announced and every day he isn’t let go makes it likely that he is staying.

Kevin McNelis

Thinking with my heart, this was not the coordinator I needed or wanted to see out.

Thinking with my head, this probably needed to happen.

Based on the way the team’s statement was presented, it seems like this was less about coaching performance (although you could certainly bring that into the conversation) and more about it being time to move on.

It raises two questions for me:

  1. Are they doing this to give Wink the opportunity to pursue a HC position elsewhere?
  2. Do the Ravens already have their new DC picked out?
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