The Andy Reid coaching tree is so big that the Giants are interviewing two ends of it on the same day in their search to replace yet another member of the connection.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is a direct disciple of Reid, whereas Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale comes off a second-degree branch. Martindale works under coach Jim Harbaugh, who, like the fired Pat Shurmur, stuck around nearly a decade from Reid’s inaugural 1999 Eagles coaching staff.
Bieniemy, 50, and Martindale, 56, will become Saturday the third and fourth candidates to meet with Giants, following Cowboys assistant Kris Richard and former Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Neither Bieniemy nor Martindale has any head coaching experience so, unless you maintain encyclopedic knowledge of running backs from the 1990s or career linebackers coaches, it’s fair to wonder: Who are they?
Bieniemy followed a nine-year NFL career by breaking into college coaching in 2001. His only play-calling experience is with Colorado in 2011-12. But his trajectory skyrocketed after joining Reid’s staff as running backs coach in 2013.
Two of his three predecessors as Chiefs offensive coordinator are head coaches.
It is a surprisingly fertile breeding ground considering Reid calls his own plays — coordinators without play-calling duties are at a disadvantage in resume-building — but there is a feeling the Giants are looking for more of a CEO after the last two head coaches called their own offensive plays at the cost of other aspects of the job.
But the difference between the Eagles’ Doug Pederson and Bears’ Matt Nagy compared to Bieniemy is they both are former quarterbacks. Bieniemy has to fight a stereotype that former running backs do not make good head coaches, with the exception of Dan Reeves. Anthony Lynn (Chargers) is the only former running back among current head coaches.
Bieniemy, who interviewed with the Jets, Dolphins, Bengals and Buccaneers last offseason, is said to be in quarterback meetings alongside 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes every day. The Chiefs finished top-six in total and scoring offense in 2019.
“Being the leader of men that he is, you’re not going to find people better than that in that category,” Reid said in his latest of many endorsements of Bieniemy. “And he’s a sharp offensive mind on top of that.”
Martindale said it would take a “dream-type” job to pull him from the Ravens, which is odd considering the former truck driver is nearing the end of the age window for a first-time head coach. He is well-regarded in league circles for his way to relate off the field to players.
Martindale had been a NFL linebackers coach since 2004 with the exception of a one-year stint as coordinator of the 2010 Broncos. He has coached 4-3 and 3-4 base defenses, so he could keep the Giants in their 3-4 alignment (like the Ravens) or return to the more traditional 4-3.
The Ravens led the NFL in blitz percentage in each of Martindale’s two seasons as coordinator, but the frequency jumped from 39.6 percent of the snaps in 2018 to 54.9 percent in 2019, when the next-closest team was at 43.4 percent. He sends defensive backs off the edge.
Because of his aggressive tendencies, Martindale plays bold man-to-man pass coverages. The Ravens defense wasn’t broke before he arrived, so he could be knocked for the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach.
Martindale’s resume is similar to Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s from his time in Arizona. Bettcher soon found out he didn’t have the same caliber talent to play that style here, and his adjustments weren’t effective.
“The end-all goal is to have a free runner to the quarterback,” Martindale said this week. “Sometimes they run into a wall, but they do it 100 miles per hour.”
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