EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said he felt hurt and surprised by safety Xavier McKinney’s comments after Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Raiders.
McKinney said after the game the team’s leaders were “not really being heard.” The fourth-year safety is one of the defensive captains.
The Giants’ defense had been playing good football heading into that Raiders loss. It had allowed just 33 points in the three previous games.
This particular complaint was one that Martindale, known for his player-friendly approach, had never heard in his 36-year coaching career.
“Yeah, it surprised me because it’s the first time it’s ever happened in my career that a player would make a statement like that,” he said. “I think it was a case of the kid is just frustrated from losing. We spoke. We cleared it up. The example that he gave me of what he was talking about was an in-game adjustment.
“It really took a while for him to point out exactly what it was. But I think you grow from that, and I just told him that is something that it hurts the locker room. It hurts the defensive room when you say something like that.”
Coach Brian Daboll said that McKinney would be in his usual role Sunday as a starting safety against the Cowboys. There wouldn’t be any on-field discipline for expressing his opinions.
The postgame critique still hit hard. It hurt Martindale, who is known for his “Keep It Real” meetings and open-door policy. He views his defensive meetings as a safe place that always end by asking if anyone has questions or concerns.
“It did [hurt],” Martindale said. “It did because I’ve always been open, and I’ve always been honest with players. I think if you have a problem, it’s just how we handle things in that room.”
That is why this was especially out of left field for the defensive coordinator.
“You read it and you go, ‘What?! S—, what is he talking about?'” Martindale said. “It’s all right. We’re moving on from it.”
McKinney’s complaint was hardly unanimous. It seemed to be more isolated than anything else.
“That’s not my perspective or interpretation of what we got going on,” linebacker and first-year captain Bobby Okereke said. “But I never want to invalidate his perspective and how he feels. I know him, Wink and [Daboll] talked about it and got to some type of agreement, understanding.”
“Just from stuff like that when things go on it’s best to handle it in-house. Keep family business, family business, from a distraction standpoint.”
The Giants hold captains meetings every Friday morning at 8:15 a.m. ET, before the defensive meetings. In there are the team’s 10 captains, coach, coordinators and director of coaching operations Laura Young.
This is where the coaching staff wants complaints to be heard.
“We kind of just open the floor,” Okereke said. “‘Does anyone have anything? Clear the air. Are there any conversations, anything from the locker room that you want to be brought to my attention?’ We talk about the schedule for the week. We talk about the musts offensively, defensively. We talk about the plan. Coach asks if there is anything you want to add. Boom, boom, boom. Open discussions.”
It has been a rough season for the Giants (2-7), and it appears the cracks are starting to show. They lost tough games to the Bills and Jets in recent weeks; now they are faced with the reality of playing the rest of the season without their starting quarterback after Daniel Jones tore the ACL in his right knee against the Raiders.
Daboll wouldn’t comment directly on McKinney’s comments. He simply highlighted the setup they have in place.
“I’d say, look, the meetings that we have, we’ve had them for two years, are good, productive meetings,” Daboll said. “I’d say the communication from myself to the coordinators to the players, and back from the players, I feel very comfortable with those.”