How Jesse Minter Mike Macdonald help Wink Martindale Michigan football

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In 2021 when Michigan football hired Mike Macdonald, the former Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach, to be the Wolverines’ new defensive coordinator, fans had questions about his expertise. Macdonald had never been a coordinator at any level, and that created some consternation among the fan base.

However, Macdonald was such a rousing success in just one year that when the Ravens decided to move on from his mentor, Wink Martindale, the Michigan coach replaced him.

Then the maize and blue found another Martindale protege in Jesse Minter, who took what Macdonald did and ran with it, elevating a defense that was already quite stellar. With Minter following Jim Harbaugh to the Los Angeles Chargers, new head coach Sherrone Moore tapped back into the well, but this time getting ‘the O.G.’ of the system — Martindale himself.

While the scheme in Ann Arbor was similar to what he ran in the NFL, there are some differences. But the hallmarks are the same, Martindale has noted. But what’s exciting for him is that he gets to carry the torch of his proteges, which has also helped him get acclimated to his new surroundings.

“The great thing is we were all together, Mike, Jesse and I,” Martindale said. “Obviously others seen throughout the NFL — I think there’s like six teams that are running this system now. And same thing college-wise, you know, D’Anton Lynn at USC. So it’s been a lot of fun. I think we all have our own personalities. I think we all call games differently than each other. Some are more aggressive, some are less aggressive.

“And the thing I love about it is the system works. It’s proven that it works. And I think Mike and Jesse did a tremendous job here at Michigan. And it’s fun for me to watch the tape because you do become the proud parent, if you will, to see another guy’s success and everything else. Because I think as the defensive coordinator, that’s my job not only to develop players, but to develop coaches, and you see a lot of success with those guys.”

While it might be a different type of trajectory, the old guard taking over from the new blood, it’s been something of a help for Martindale knowing that he can get Minter on the phone to discuss how things operate in Ann Arbor. It could be about the school itself, the system that Minter ran, or more, but the new defensive coordinator always has quick access to the former one.

As Martindale sees it, it’s not that he’s just helping with the job, but he helped get him to Ann Arbor, as it were.

“It’s been great. It played a big part of me getting here,” Martindale said. “Jesse, he talked to Sherrone, I know that. And you know, I talked to Jesse. Right now it’s a busy time for him. It’s a busy time for me, too — he always picks up whenever I call. And I’m there for him, too, where he’s at. So it’s been great.”

So the legacy continues, this time with the first now being the last. The man who ran the system and helped develop Michigan’s previous two defensive coordinators is now in the post they vacated.

Though some may see that as a step down, Martindale is appreciative of the continuation of the legacy. Because it’s more than just a scheme — it’s a family.

“It’s nice. It’s the trust factor. You’re talking to a guy that you’ve been friends with or worked with, stayed in touch with,” Martindale said. “I have watched all the Michigan games — we were at Baltimore that last year and then the Giants. We watched — I told LaMar (Morgan — new DB coach who was a coach at Vanderbilt) we watched Vanderbilt play Connecticut. That was a barn burner!

“But, you know, it’s just when you have — it’s basically family because we spend more time, as coaches, we spend more time together than actually, you do your families, which is that’s a sad thing to say about the profession, but it’s the way it is.”


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