Head Coach John Harbaugh has again promoted from within to fill his defensive coordinator position, hiring Don “Wink” Martindale Tuesday to be his next defensive leader after the retirement of Dean Pees.
Martindale brings an aggressive mentality (he’s best friends with Rex and Rob Ryan), previous history as a defensive coordinator and experience within Baltimore’s system.
“‘Wink’ has earned the promotion to defensive coordinator,” Harbaugh stated. “His aggressive mentality will serve to take our defense to new levels.
“He is obviously respected by players, many of whom have already benefited from his direct coaching at the linebacker position. He knows the ins and outs of what we have been about on defense and has been an important contributor to our success on that side of the ball. This is an exciting day for Wink and his family, and also one for the Ravens.”
Harbaugh has found a lot of success promoting from within at defensive coordinator, and spoke last week about wanting to hire somebody familiar with the Ravens' strong system. Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano and Dean Pees were all promoted from within, as well as Rex Ryan before Harbaugh arrived in 2008.
Martindale served as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2010 under Josh McDaniels. The Broncos gave up the most yards (390.8) and points (29.4) per game in the NFL that year.
However, Martindale was without top pass rusher Elvis Dumervil in his prime because of a torn pectoral, and Von Miller was drafted the next year. The Broncos did not have nearly as much defensive talent that season as the Ravens currently have on the roster.
Martindale came to the Ravens in 2012 as an outside linebackers coach and quickly became a favorite of his players and fellow coaches. He was promoted to linebackers coach two years ago.
Under Martindale’s guidance, linebacker C.J. Mosley has gone to three Pro Bowls in his first four years. Martindale also was instrumental in the development of former Ravens inside linebacker Zachary Orr and outside linebacker Matthew Judon.
As the Ravens were cleaning out their lockers last week not knowing who their next defensive play-caller would be, Mosley lodged a vote for Martindale.
“He always talked about wanting to be a coordinator,” Mosley said. “I’m a little biased, because I’ve been with him my whole career and I know what kind of a person he is and what kind of a coach he is. … As long as he’s here with us, I’ll be happy.”
The 2018 campaign will mark Martindale’s 14th season coaching in the NFL. He broke in with the Oakland Raiders (2004-08).
Previously, he coached 11 seasons in the collegiate ranks, including three years at the University of Cincinnati alongside Harbaugh, who was then an assistant head coach. Martindale also helped Harbaugh’s father, Jack, win a Division I FCS National Championship at Western Kentucky in 2002.
When Martindale was let go in Denver and landed in Baltimore one year later, Dumervil told this to the Denver Post:
“Wink taught me a lot about how to play linebacker and it showed with the year I had (in 2009, leading the NFL with 17 sacks). He’s a smart coach, a down-to-earth guy, great players coach. The Ravens just hired a great coach. He’s going to be a D-coordinator again someday.”
Now that day has arrived, and it’s a second chance for Martindale to show the kind of coordinator he can be. He inherits a talented defense that finished 12th in the league in yards (325.1), sixth in points (18.9) per game and led the league in takeaways (34).
Harbaugh also announced two more coaching promotions Tuesday. Mike Macdonald will replace Martindale as the team’s linebackers coach and Sterling Lucas will be a defensive quality control coach.
“Mike is one of the rising coaching standouts in the NFL, and he has earned the respect in the locker room and in the coaching room,” Harbaugh stated. “We’re excited to see what he’ll do when he coaches our linebackers.”
Lucas has worked for the Ravens the past two seasons, most recently serving as administrative assistant – defense in 2017. Prior to joining Baltimore in 2016, he spent two years as a defensive graduate assistant at North Carolina State.