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Giants Now: Wink Martindale honored with lifetime achievement award


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is one of the three recipients of the 2023 Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman Award, which is presented for lifetime achievement as an NFL assistant coach.

The award is named for Zimmerman, who covered the NFL for 29 years as Sports Illustrated's lead pro football writer.

Martindale is joined by recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell and the Bobb McKittrick. They bring to 23 the number of recipients of the of the Dr. Z Award, which was instituted by the PFWA in 2014.

Martindale is entering his second season as the Giants' defensive coordinator, his 19th season in the NFL and his 36th year in coaching.

He is the second Giants assistant coach to be honored. Romeo Crennel, the team's special teams coach (1981-89) and defensive line coach (1990-92), received the Dr. Z Award in 2020.

"It's a great honor and it puts you in very good company," Martindale said. "It means you've been in the league longer than most. I think it's a great association. I haven't had time to reflect on it yet, but it's something I will cherish, especially when I'm done coaching.

"You can stay in a place for a long time if you're consistent and that's one of the things we've been. I say we, because no way would I be able to do it without the players I coached and the coaches that have coached with me. I've been very fortunate that way. Something I'm particularly proud of was to be the defensive coordinator for two coaches who were named NFL Coach of the Year, John Harbaugh in 2019 and Dabs (Brian Daboll) last year."

View photos of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's first season with the Giants.

In Martindale's first year as coordinator in 2022, the Giants allowed 45 fewer points and recorded seven more sacks than they had the previous season, a major reason their victory total increased by five games, and they earned their first playoff berth since 2016. The Giants ranked fifth in the NFL in third-down defense, as their opponents converted just 35.1% of their opportunities.

Dexter Lawrence had a team and career-high 7.5 sacks, was selected a second-team All-Pro and was one of the NFL's most dominant defensive linemen. Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux received an NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award and steadily improved as the season progressed. Despite injuries that forced them to miss games, lineman Leonard Williams, cornerback Adoree' Jackson and safety Xavier McKinney excelled in Martindale's "position-less" defense.

Martindale, 60, joined the Giants after spending the previous 10 seasons on the Baltimore Ravens' coaching staff, the last four as defensive coordinator. During Martindale's tenure in Baltimore, the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII and consistently had one of the NFL's best defenses. His unit ranked in the top three in the NFL in points allowed in each of his first three seasons, and first, fourth and seventh, respectively, in yardage yielded while never finishing lower than eighth against the run or the pass.

Martindale began his NFL career as the Oakland Raiders' linebackers coach from 2004-08.

Mitchell retired following the 2022 season after 31 years as an NFL defensive line coach, including 28 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I know Johnnie Mitchell," Martindale said. "Good man. He is really tight with Ozzie Newsome (former Ravens general manager, now executive vice president) and Clarence Brooks (the Ravens' defensive line coach from 2005-15). who's passed, and I got to know him through those guys. I think it's great they recognized as well."

McKittrick was an offensive line coach for the Los Angeles Rams. San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers from 1971-99. During his 21 years with the 49ers, the team won five Super Bowls. McKittrick died in 2000 from bile duct cancer.

PAUL "DR. Z" ZIMMERMAN AWARD WINNERS (For lifetime achievement as an NFL assistant coach):

  • 2014 — Jim Johnson, Howard Mudd, Fritz Shurmur and Ernie Zampese
  • 2015 — Dick LeBeau, Tom Moore and Dante Scarnecchia
  • 2016 — Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips
  • 2017 — Bud Carson
  • 2018 — Joe Bugel and Emmitt Thomas
  • 2019 — Gunther Cunningham and Mike Westhoff
  • 2020 — Bill Arnsparger and Romeo Crennel
  • 2021 — Rod Marinelli and Bobby Turner
  • 2022 — Leslie Frazier and Greg Knapp
  • 2023 — Don "Wink" Martindale, Bobb McKittrick and John Mitchell

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