BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Ravens and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale have parted ways, Coach John Harbaugh said Friday.
“We have had a great run on defense, and I am very proud of what has been accomplished and the work he has done,” said Harbaugh. “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.”READ MORE: Pandemic Highlighted Need To Address Disparities In Minority Access To Mental Health Care, Advocates Sauy
During an injury-riddled 2021, the defense fell toward the bottom of the league after three years of success. Among the stalwarts who went down: cornerback Marcus Peters (lost in the preseason with a season-ending knee injury), All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey (lost in Week 13 with a torn pectoral muscle), free safety DeShon Elliott (lost in Week 9 with a torn pectoral muscle), defensive tackle Derek Wolfe (out all year with a back injury) and linebacker L.J. Fort (lost in the preseason with a torn ACL).
The Ravens were last in the league in yards per play (6 yards) and passing yards surrendered (4,742), and ranked 29th in takeaways. The team did, however, give up the fewest rushing yards in the league, at 1,436.
And throughout Martindale’s tenure, a common critique of his scheme, known for its exotic looks and aggressive blitzing, is the Ravens get pressure on the opposing quarterback but don’t bring him down often enough.
In 2018, when Martindale took over as defensive coordinator, and 2020, the Ravens ranked 4th in quarterback pressures, but they were near the middle of the pack in sacks each season, according to Pro Football Reference. Under Martindale, the Ravens have never ranked higher than 13th in sacking the passer.
Last season, the Ravens were 23rd in sacks and 22nd in pressures.
Sometimes the moment comes to go in separate directions, “and it’s the right time,” Harbaugh said.
Martindale joined the Ravens a decade ago as an inside linebackers coach, in what would be legendary middle linebacker Ray Lewis’ final year in purple and black.READ MORE: President Biden Sends Off Naval Academy's Graduating Class Of 2022
Even with the 17-year veteran and fiery team leader missing 10 games, the group succeeded with the contributions from the likes of Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain, finishing 10-6 and winning the AFC North. The 2012 team went on to win Super Bowl XLVII. After returning for the playoffs, Lewis ended his “Last Ride” on the highest of high notes.
Under Martindale’s tutelage, Lewis’ heir apparent, 2014 first-round draft pick C.J. Mosley, became the first rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl, finishing his inaugural campaign with 133 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits and three sacks.
Mosley was selected to the Pro Bowl three more times as a Raven, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Martindale was elevated to linebackers coach in 2016, and two years later, he was given the reins of the defense.
The Ravens defense ranked No. 1 in 2018 with 292.9 yards per game allowed, according to Martindale’s bio on the team site. It was only the second time in team history Baltimore held the top spot, with the other being 2006.
The unit was similarly stingy the next two seasons, allowing the third-fewest points per game in 2019 and the second-fewest points per game in 2020. Those teams ranked ranked fourth and seventh in yards per game, respectively.
In February 2020, the Ravens reportedly signed Martindale, who by that point had received some buzz as a head coaching candidate, to a three-year extension, making him the highest paid defensive coordinator in the league.
Sources: The #Ravens have signed defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to a new 3-year contract making him the highest paid DC in the league. Richly deserved for a coach they believe will be a top head coach candidate next offseason.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2020
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“I am personally grateful for our friendship and for everything he has done in Baltimore,” Harbaugh said.