After the Ravens beatCarolina, 20-3, on Saturday night in their second preseason game, Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold said Baltimore blitzed more than usual for an exhibition game.
Apparently, Darnold had not read the memo about Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. He brings heat all the time, from anywhere on the field. And now he has a similar type with him on the sidelines in linebackers coach Rob Ryan, twin brother of Rex Ryan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator and head coach of the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
Both Ryans are flamethrowers when it comes to blitzes and pressure. Some suggest that Martindale is the triplet, separated at birth. Imagine if the three close friends were on the same coaching staff.
“Ah, the league ... they wouldn’t allow it,” Rex Ryan said.
“You know what would happen, nobody would score,” he said.
He isn’t joking. From the late father Buddy down through Rex, Rob and the adopted one, Martindale, they’re all cocky, confident and have the same philosophy of attacking on defense instead of being attacked. They definitely have one other common trait: being close with their players.
The Ravens have only played two preseason games, but second-year inside linebackers Malik Harrison and Patrick Queen have already shown significant improvement. Maybe that’s because they’ve had an offseason to train and digest the NFL, or maybe it’s because of Rob Ryan’s old guard style.
“When you watch the preseason games, you see a lot of care, a lot of hugging, chest bumping and high-fiving,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “It’s genuine and it’s hard to have that this time of year with everyone competing for jobs. But that’s the type of player Wink brings in, guys who want to connect and bond, guys who are honest and will communicate directly.
“He [Martindale] can really have some good conversations with players about things other than football. And if you show you care, then you don’t want to let each other down.”
Because of his brother, Rex Ryan, an ESPN analyst, has another reason to follow the Ravens. In three years under Martindale, the Ravens have been No. 1 in the league in points allowed per game (18.2), yards allowed per game (307.8), defensive touchdowns (12) and opponent completion rate allowed (60.3%).
Rex Ryan considers his brother to be the best assistant he ever worked with. The best entertainment might be when Rob Ryan and Martindale are in meetings together. Both can be stubborn and use colorful language. Needless to say, there won’t be a lot of gospel music being played.
‘’Oh, they’re having the time of their lives because they love ball and everything about it. It’s the perfect match,” Rex Ryan said. “The players will see it. No. 1, he [Rob] knows the game better than anybody, his preparation is second to none. He’ll spend more hours than anybody in there. He’ll put everybody to sleep, that’s his preparation, it’s unbelievable. In the off time, he’s not off, he’ll be there until whatever. In the offseason, he’ll be there until 10, 11 at night. This is the most dedicated football coach there is, he’s the most prepared. It’s probably like the old times we used to have.”
The Ryans and Martindale are old friends. Martindale was once on the University of Cincinnati coaching staff with Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Rex Ryan in 1996, and Rex Ryan spent two more years with him. Martindale was the linebackers coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2004 to 2008, the same years Rob Ryan was the defensive coordinator.
They carpooled to work almost every day. Rex Ryan likes to talk about the days when the trio attended spring training or the Daytona 500, or played Wiffle ball.
“When I first met Wink, instantly I was sitting back going, ‘Oh hell, this is my guy.’ I loved him, it was great,” Rex Ryan said.
The Ravens’ style of play was meant for Martindale and both Ryans. The attacking style was first implemented by former defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis in 1996 and has remained constant, which is part of the reason why so many of the team’s defensive assistants — Lewis, Rex Ryan, Jack Del Rio, Mike Nolan, Mike Pettine, Jim Schwartz, Mike Singletary and Mike Smith — have gone on to become head coaches.
Martindale walked into a unique situation in Baltimore, and so did Rob Ryan. A major key is to have good cornerbacks who can cover, like Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. From there, it’s a matter of mixing and matching, according to Rex Ryan.
“The thing is that the Ravens have had this philosophy for years. It’s always been there. Some things have been tweaked or whatever, but it’s always been there,” he said. “I know there are some people that are disappointed because the sack numbers aren’t that high, but the main thing is to get people stopped. That’s what the Ravens do, and you know whether it’s rushing four or whether it’s bringing the house they cover people, so it’s really a good scheme with really good players.”
Besides the scheme, the other attraction to Rob Ryan was the organization itself. Rex Ryan had bragged to his brother for years about the team operations. Rex Ryan knew about the negotiations between his brother and Harbaugh, but didn’t interfere.
“The great thing was he was able to be with Wink, so that’s a slam dunk. The other great thing was he was able to be with Harbaugh,” Rex Ryan said. “You don’t know how good that organization is until you are in it and that’s when you realize how special it is to be a Baltimore Raven. It wasn’t much of a sell job on my end. Harbs did all that and was like come get it. He did.”
The Ravens have a good complement of talent with strong veterans like defensive linemen Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe and young players such as linebackers Queen and Tyus Bowser, Humphrey and safety Chuck Clark. Combined with the aggressive approach, the Ravens will be a contender.
And with a little luck, they could get to the AFC Championship game and play in the Super Bowl, which Buddy Ryan once called a “family reunion” because he had three Super Bowl rings, Rob has two and Rex one. If that happens, Martindale might finally get the head coaching job that has eluded him for the last couple of years.
“I hope that happens if that is his goal,” Rex Ryan said. “But I think the big thing is focus on this job and do the very best you can. When you win a Super Bowl, everybody wins, whether it’s Wink advancing, whatever, it’s good for everybody. I think that’s where the concern needs to be, but he’ll get there.”
Campbell says Martindale has the makings of another Bruce Arians, the tough-minded head coach of the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rex Ryan disagrees. Martindale is another Ryan.
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“He is definitely in the family,” said Rex Ryan, laughing.