OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens have fired defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale with one year remaining on his contract, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Friday.
The surprising shakeup represents the Ravens’ first move since losing six straight games to end the season and failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh released a statement on Friday saying he and Martindale “have agreed to move forward in separate directions.”
“We’ve had a great run on defense, and I’m very proud of what’s been accomplished and the work he’s done,” Harbaugh said in his 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 has done a great job. Now is the time to seize other opportunities.
“Sometimes the time comes, and it’s the right time. I’m personally grateful for our friendship and for everything he did in Baltimore.”
Some members of the organization were caught off guard by the parting of ways with Martindale. The decision came 12 days after the Ravens ended their season-ending 16-13 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and after Martindale took part in staff meetings last week. Martindale was also asked to address the players at the team’s final meeting a day after the end of the season.
The decision was announced as the Ravens’ brain trust — Harbaugh, owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Eric DeCosta — held its annual organizational summit.
Baltimore ranked 25th in defense last season, the first time the Ravens finished outside the top 10 in Martindale’s four seasons as defensive coordinator. The Ravens have also allowed the second-most yards (363.4) in the franchise’s 26-year history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Martindale, 58, had been with the Ravens since their 2012 Super Bowl season and was known for his ultra-aggressive style. The Ravens have consistently ranked among the top performing teams.
This season, the Ravens have struggled after losing three of their four starters in the secondary — cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and safety DeShon Elliott — to season-ending injuries. Baltimore struggled to stop teams late in the game, forcing turnovers and preventing big plays in the passing game.
The Ravens have given up the most completions of 20 or more yards in the NFL (74) and 40 or more yards (16). Baltimore has also had just 34 sacks this season, which ranks 22nd in the league.
It was unlike any season under Martindale, whose defenses ranked No. 1 in 2018, No. 4 in 2019 and No. 7 in 2020. He had been considered a candidate for chief training, even while interviewing for the position of the New York Giants in 2020.
Martindale was known for his colorful comments at press conferences and for coaching players. In preseason games, Martindale allowed some older players to call the defense in the second half.
Wink was a real Respect Big Dawg #TownBiz
—Marcus Peters (@marcuspeters) January 22, 2022
The Ravens have traditionally hired from within the defensive coordinator position. Inside candidates include defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and defensive passing game coordinator Chris Hewitt.
It’s also possible the Ravens could bring back former inside linebackers coach Mike Macdonald, who has long been considered the heir apparent to the co-ordinator job. Macdonald was the defensive coordinator for the Michigan Wolverines last season.
Another option is former Ravens defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who was the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
Martindale’s sacking comes at a time when Baltimore faces a potential defensive rebuild. Passing rush aside, the Ravens have a number of areas to address on defense this offseason, with the team possibly looking to add four new starters on this side of the ball.
Defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams — who have combined 1,012 snaps this season — are entering free agency this offseason, and the center linebacker is also a concern after the team moved the former No. 1 pick tour Patrick Queen out of this place.
The secondary, meanwhile, needs a point guard safety and a No. 3 cornerback.
This coaching change shows the last-place Ravens (8-9) are not staying on the status quo after becoming the first team in the past 19 seasons to go from the No. 1 seed in the conference to the failure of the playoffs. six weeks later.