Don Martindale started his coaching career in 1986, when he became the defensive coordinator for Defiance College. He would serve as a coach for several high schools before returning to college football as an assistant at Notre Dame in 1994, where he helped the team to the Fiesta Bowl (1994) and Orange Bowl (1995).
Over the next eight years, Martindale spent time with several colleges, including Cincinnati, Western Illinois and Western Kentucky. He had several different roles, including special teams coach, linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. He helped Western Kentucky to a Division 1 FCS National Championship in 2002.
First NFL Coaching Opportunities
Martindale would finally get a shot at a coaching position in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders in 2004. He spent five years with the team, coaching the inside linebackers. In 2006, he helped Oakland’s defense rank third overall. In his final few years with the team, he would help tutor Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard, who became two of the NFL’s best at forcing turnovers with seven interceptions from 2006-2008.
After his time in Oakland, Martindale was hired by the Denver Broncos to serve as linebackers coach in 2009. Under his leadership, the Denver Broncos had the seventh best defense in the NFL. Martindale was also instrumental in the development of Elvis Dumervil, who recorded a whopping 17 sacks in his first season as outside linebacker, which included a trip to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Martindale also helped D.J. Williams earn a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate at linebacker.
In 2010, Denver promoted Martindale to defensive coordinator, where he helped Champ Bailey earn Pro Bowl honors. The team did struggle on defense and offense, however, ending the season with a 4-12 record and ranked near the bottom in most defensive categories.
Career with Baltimore
From 2012-2017, Martindale was hired by the Baltimore Ravens to coach the linebackers, where he had a lot of success. In his first year, he saw his linebackers depleted by injuries, including Ray Lewis who missed 10 games. Despite that, the team still had one of the best defenses in the league and Martindale helped Dannell Ellerbe record career bests.
The Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl that year after Ray Lewis recorded a franchise postseason record, 51 tackles.
The linebackers would once again thrive under Martindale in 2013, following the retirement of Ray Lewis. Daryl Smith would become one of three players that season to record 100+ tackles, 5 sacks and 3 interceptions, while also setting a franchise record by a linebacker with 19 passes defensed.
In 2014, Smith once again had a monster year, and Ravens’ rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley would earn Pro Bowl honors. Mosley and Smith dominated again in 2015 as two of the best linebackers in the game under coach Martindale.
In 2017, Martindale would help Mosley to his third Pro Bowl honor in four years. The Ravens’ linebackers were the story of what will be known as one of the better defenses over the 6-year period under Martindale.
In 2018, the Ravens finally promoted Martindale to defensive coordinator after seeing what he has been able to do with linebackers like Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr and even Ray Lewis for half a season.
Under Martindale as defensive coordinator, the Ravens currently rank 4th in tackles, 26th in sacks, 9th in passes defensed, 19th in interceptions, 7th in forced fumbles, and 13th in fumble recoveries. Their defense ranks first in yards allowed per game, and first in points allowed per game, making them the toughest defense to play against this season.
Don Martindale’s continued success wherever he goes will surely land him more opportunities as a defensive coordinator, and could even turn him into a head coach in the near future.
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