Wink Martindale knows. He understands. He gets it. He realizes where he works. He is intimately familiar with what it means to be the defensive coordinator of the New York Football Giants, which is the same job Tom Landry once had, the same job Bill Belichick once had.
Which is to say: the current caretaker of a fundamental and essential New York institution, same as the person in charge of the New York Public Library, or Lincoln Center, or the Museum of Natural History.
When you run the Giants’ defense, you are engaged in a public trust, and when that defense is about to play one of the most enormous games in recent memory? It makes a man understand the responsibilities at hand.
“We know where the standard is, and we want to keep raising the bar,” Martindale said last week. “That’s why I keep referring to the fans, I think they like seeing it. They like seeing an attacking style defense and ones that can hit the quarterback, We’ve had 19 different guys this year on the roster that have got a sack. That’s crazy. It’s also once again a credit to the players and their [position] coaches.”
If the Giants are going to go into Philadelphia on Saturday night, into the belly of the beast, into the house of horrors that has recently been Lincoln Financial Field, and survive? Yes, it will take another superior effort from Danny Dimes, and probably a few breathtaking runs from Saquon Barkley, and it will help if the special teams are on point. All of that is true.
But to beat the Eagles on Saturday night, something else has to happen.
The defense has to turn its watch back to 1956 and get after the Iggles the way Sam Huff and Andy Robustelli and Dick Modzelewski and the gang used to get after it. They need to turn the clock back to 1986 and channel LT and Carl Banks and Leonard Marshall and the crew, stalk Philly for 60 minutes. They need to flip the calendar to 2007, and set their inner Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora loose on Jalen Hurts.
They need to inspire the Giants fans inside the Linc and the hundreds of thousands of others watching inside saloons and sports bars and living rooms to do what they’ve done on instinct and involuntary reaction for as long as there have been quality Giants teams to root for:
Stand up, wherever they are, and chant the holy mantra.
“We need,” Marshall tweeted Friday, “a ‘Bill Belichick style’ defensive throw-down type of game from ‘The New Big Blue Wrecking Crew.’ Just like this bunch. Let’s go Big Blue! Somebody get me a uniform, please.”
Yeah. You know what Leonard’s talking about because, hell, you want a uniform, too. You’ll settle for your Taylor 56 and Strahan 92 jerseys, maybe break out an old Armstead 98 or Carson 53, and let Martindale and his electric band of upstarts do the heavy lifting.
“Obviously, we’re taking this seriously,” Leonard Williams said. “But at the same time, I think we have to be loose and have fun and remember that it’s a game. Be where you’re supposed to be and know what you’re supposed to do and all those types of things. At the end of the day, I feel like when we play with that type of fun and looseness that we play with a different type of swagger, and it allows us to play fast.”
That’ll work. That’ll play. We know what it’s going to sound like at the Linc ’round 8:14 or so, just before kickoff, and what it’ll sound like the first time the Eagles get the ball.
Think about how different that sound will be if — for argument’s sake — Dexter Lawrence breaks through and flattens Jalen Hurts early on. Or if Kayvon Thibodeaux is able to jar the football free from Miles Sanders’ grasp. Or if Adoree’ Jackson steps in front of a ball intended for A.J. Brown.
Think about how different Saturday night will look if any of that happens. Sit back, relax (well, relatively), turn your watch back to 1956 (or 1986, or 2007) and look at the lads in blue try to keep the Eagles from flying. It’s always been the best formula, after all.