The Giants finish the 2023 season with a solid victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10 on Sunday. On Monday, Head Coach Brian Daboll begins reshaping his coaching staff with announcements that Special Teams Coordinator, Thomas McGaughey, and Offensive Line Coach, Bobby Johnson, were fired. But that wasn’t where the “chess game” left off.
During the season-ending press conference this morning held by GM Joe Schoen and Coach Daboll, the head coach stated he expects both Defensive Coordinator, Wink Martindale, and Offensive Coordinator, Mike Kafka, would be retained for 2024. Daboll successfully navigated the remainder of the press conference with no questions about the rest of the staff. When the conference was over, there was a feeling of relief among most of the Giants fan base that Wink, a popular coach among the fans, was returning to lead a defense that was starting to gel. Clearly, Wink was the most popular of the Giants’ coordinators throughout the 2023 season with engaging and frank media conferences each Thursday during the season.
But, Daboll wasn’t done playing chess with his staff today. After meeting with the press, Daboll then met with the remainder of his staff and chose to fire Outside Linebacker Coach, Drew Wilkins, and his brother, Defensive Assistant, Kevin Wilkins. On the surface, the move makes sense given the Giants OLBs Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, and Jihad Ward finished with a very poor Pass Rush Win Rate of 71, 76, and 78 out of 78 OLBs in the NFL this year. Containment against the run was equally problematic for the Giants OLBs. In my mind, these firings were deserved, but also designed to force Wink’s hand without Daboll needing to move on from Martindale. You see, both Wilkins brothers came to the Giants with Martindale, and were favorites of Wink. With Daboll firing them, Wink chose to resign over the firings to save his posse. There were rumors that Wink wanted to be fired so he could receive the remainder of his contract.
Perhaps the beginning of Wink’s end came after the sideline blowup by Xavier McKinney about one play during the November 5th game versus the Las Vegas Raiders, Martindale made it a point to defend himself, saying McKinney’s comments hurt the locker room and were not backed by any of the other captains. It’s possible that this was the tipping point.
Wink’s resignation lets the Giants’ front office and head coach escape clear cut ridicule that would have come if Wink had been fired. His popularity as a defensive genius overshadowed the true rankings of the Giants defense this year. The Giants were 26th of 32 teams in points allowed and 27th in yards given up. But they were also 1st in the takeaway/giveaway ratio (+12 on the season). The real damage may come due to his popularity with the defensive players.
When you finish 6-11 on the season, changes are expected. Coach Daboll is the first to say each season is different and its own entity. Now the Giants enter 2024 looking for two coordinators and multiple assistant coaches.