Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale on Thursday revealed that he was stung by comments made by safety Xavier McKinney following Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Raiders in Las Vegas.
“I think that from a leadership standpoint, I don’t think they’ve done a great job of letting the leaders lead and listening to the leaders and the captains,” McKinney, one of the team’s ten captains elected at the start of the season, told ESPN.com after the game. “It was one of those things where you have some of your leaders, captains from a defensive standpoint, trying to switch things up and just not really being heard.”
Martindale, who insisted on Thursday that he was unaware that McKinney was upset during the game on the sideline, said when he read the comments later they “did’’ hurt him.
“It surprised me, because it’s the first time in my career that a player would make a statement like that,” Martindale said. “I think it was a case where the kid was just frustrated with 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 to me exactly what it was.
“What he explained to me was a coverage that we ran one time,” Martindale went on. “He explained that to me afterward. I didn’t hear about it during the game. That’s another reason why it caught me by surprise.
“I just told him that’s something that hurts the locker room, it hurts the defensive room when you say something like that. I understand about [Internet] clicks and all the things that you [reporters] do, and I respect your profession. But the example I used in front of him and the entire defense is when you make a statement like that it puts money in [the media’s] pockets and takes it out of ours.
“It was an emotional thing right after the game, and you just got to learn from it. So, we’re moving on.”
This hit Martindale particularly hard, because he conducts weekly “keep it real’’ sessions with his defensive players, a time when he encourages anyone to say anything without repercussions.
His players have universally lauded Martindale for conducting those sessions, which he calls “a safe space.’’
“I end every meeting with, ‘Does anybody have anything, any questions, any concerns, are we OK, are your families OK? If you have something, say something. Do we like the plan?’ ’’ Martindale said. “I check all boxes and I mean it when I say it. We’ve had discussions. We’ve had some different personalities that have been in those rooms. That’s a good thing (to discuss issues) before the game.’’
Martindale said, after seeing the McKinney comments, it made him go back to some veteran players to reassure that he’s doing the right thing and that the McKinney issue was an isolated incident.
“I had to go back and talk to the leaders,” he said. “And when I say leaders, you don’t have to have a ‘C’ on your chest to be a leader. I talked to the vets — A’Shawn (Robinson) and Nacho (Rakeen Nunez-Roches), Bobby (Okereke), all of them, and said, ‘Hey, is there something that we’re not discussing? Is there a problem here?’ And to a man, they said, ‘No.’ “