Giants: 5 defensive coordinator candidates to replace Wink Martindale

Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce signals against the New York Giants during the second quarter at Allegiant Stadium
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have a crucial vacancy on their coaching staff following the resignation of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. Head coach Brian Daboll will soon begin the hunt for a new defensive coordinator to replace Martindale for the 2024 season, and a few candidates stand out as intriguing options.

Reuniting with a Giants legend

Former New York Giants linebacker and Super Bowl champion Antonio Pierce has become one of the NFL’s most exciting young coaches. Serving as the Las Vegas Raiders’ linebackers coach since 2022, Pierce was made the interim head coach following the firing of Josh McDaniels.

Pierce has a strong chance to be hired as the Raiders’ full-time head coach this offseason. However, if that doesn’t happen, Pierce will be a highly-coveted coaching candidate for a number of positions around the league. The Giants could hope to bring Pierce home to New York as their next defensive coordinator if he strikes out on all head coaching jobs.

The Raiders’ defense surrendered only 19.5 points per game this season, ranking ninth in the NFL. After a 3-5 start to the season, Pierce took over as the Raiders’ interim head coach and led the team to a 5-4 record to end the season. His ability to rally and lead the team has been praised by players and coaches alike.

A familiar face for Brian Daboll

Daboll could bring in a familiar face this offseason to coach his defense. Prior to becoming Big Blue’s head coach, Daboll was the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills from 2018 to 2021. During that time, Leslie Frazier oversaw Buffalo’s defense.

Frazier was the defensive coordinator for the Bills from 2017 to 2019. He has then served as Buffalo’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator from 2020 to 2022 but is currently not on an NFL team’s coaching staff. Frazier is a well-respected coach with head-coaching experience — a trait that Daboll may consider valuable.

The Giants interviewed Frazier for their vacant head coach position last offseason before hiring Daboll. Frazier stepped away from the sidelines for the 2023 season but is ready to make his return and could do so as a defensive coordinator. Frazier’s defenses were typically among the best in the league during his time as the Bills’ defensive coordinator.

Two potential in-house promotions

The Giants already have two strong candidates for their defensive coordinator role in-house.

Firstly, defensive line coach Andre Patterson stands out as a strong contender for the position. His unit has performed at an exceptional level over the past two years with Big Blue as DT Dexter Lawrence has evolved into an All-Pro caliber player. Patterson was the defensive line coach, co-defensive coordinator, and assistant head coach for the Minnesota Vikings in 2021 before joining the Giants.

Patterson does have a health concern, however, as he was away from the team for a portion of the 2022 season due to a medical issue. This might deter the G-Men from promoting Patterson to such an important position.

Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson is the team’s other in-house candidate. He has been with the Giants since 2020, surviving a head-coaching change due to the level of respect he has within the organization and the level of quality he brings to the coaching staff.

Henderson was the defensive passing game coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons from 2016 to 2019, so he has experience coordinating a defense, like Patterson.

Perhaps these two coaches could become co-defensive coordinators together for Big Blue. This would maintain continuity for the Giants’ defense as much of the staff would remain intact with two of its top assistants rising into more prominent positions. Maybe Patterson and Henderson would be able to run the coordinator position together.

Plucking from within the division

The Philadelphia Eagles are a mess right now and their defense has been a large part of their problem. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai was stripped of his play-calling duties in December in an effort to get the team out of its rut. Since then, senior defensive assistant and “de facto┬ádefensive coordinator” Matt Patricia has been calling Philly’s defense.

The Giants might have an interest in plucking Patricia from the Eagles’ staff as he is a highly respected defensive coach who was a strong contender for New York’s head coaching job in 2018. He is presumably highly thought of in the Giants’ building and he does have a connection to Daboll from their shared time together with the New England Patriots (seven years in two different stints).

Patricia also has head-coaching experience as a former head coach for the Detroit Lions (2018 to 2020). While that head-coaching stint was a bit tumultuous, the experience gained is still valuable. Patricia would be a controversial hiring for the Giants, but he will definitely be a strong contender for the position.

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