After putting on a master class against some of the NFL’s top offenses this season, Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald made himself one of the league’s most sought-after coaches. And on Wednesday he took his first NFL coaching job with the Seattle Seahawks, a source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Baltimore Banner.
Macdonald replaces 72-year-old Pete Carroll, who coached the Seahawks from 2010-23. The Seahawks went 9-8, finishing third in the NFC West. Carroll and the Seahawks mutually agreed he would step down as coach on Jan. 10, but he will remain as an adviser.
At 36, Macdonald is the youngest head coach in the NFL. He is younger than Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay by two years. McVay is still the youngest coach at the time of his hire (he was 30 when the Rams hired him).
Macdonald has seven years of NFL experience, all with the Ravens under John Harbaugh, but he has only two as an NFL coordinator. He started as an intern with the Ravens in 2014 and worked his way into a role as a position coach.
He then went to Michigan and, under Harbaugh’s brother Jim, gained his first experience as a coordinator. He was there for one year before John hired him back. In just two years, his defense made history — this season, it became the first defense to finish first in points per game allowed (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31). It also finished first in DVOA.
And, just as important as his résumé, his players gave him a glowing reference.
“I think he’s the best [head coaching] candidate out there right now,” linebacker Patrick Queen said Monday. “I don’t think anybody does it like him. Nobody cares like him. Nobody will do what he does. He will not rest until he has everything right. Whoever gets him, if he leaves, they’re getting the best candidate out there. The guy is all around just the best person I’ve ever been around, coach-wise [and] person-wise. He really cares and truly cares about the players, the people around the organization and the fans.”
Macdonald will take over a team whose passing defense finished in the bottom half of the league in most statistical categories, including yards allowed, completion percentage allowed and yards allowed per catch. The run defense was even worse. It allowed the second-most rushing yards and seventh-worst yards per carry.
However, Macdonald has shown he can produce results quickly, at least as a coordinator. He has not been a head coach at either the college or NFL level.
In his first year, the 2022 season, Macdonald’s passing defense finished in the bottom third of the NFL in completion percentage (66.4%) and yards per catch (7.2). However, his run defense finished third in the NFL in yards allowed per rush (3.9). Its points allowed per game (18.5) ranked third in the NFL.
Macdonald’s defense got a huge boost in October 2022 when the Ravens traded for linebacker Roquan Smith. In the games after Smith arrived, the Ravens finished third in defensive DVOA. Their crowning achievement? The way they stifled Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and his arsenal of receivers in three matchups. Burrow and the Bengals made it to the AFC championship that season.
Working with an offense under a brand-new coordinator, the defense helped carry the team through growing pains at the start of the 2023 season. Once the offense found its groove, the team was off, finishing with the best record in the NFL (13-4) and wins over six playoff-bound teams, including the two teams who made it to the NFC championship, the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions.
His defense’s best performances this season came against the best quarterbacks. The Ravens held the 49ers, who are headed to the Super Bowl, and then-MVP candidate Brock Purdy to 19 points, the second-fewest of their season, and forced five turnovers, the most of the season.
They held the Lions, who averaged over 27 points a game, to six, and the Miami Dolphins, who scored 70 points and also averaged 27 points a game, to 19.
Even in the AFC championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Macdonald had an impressive showing. Although the defense was “shocked” after it gave up touchdowns on the first two drives, according to safety Kyle Hamilton, it shut the Chiefs out over the second half.
Although the Ravens finished with a healthy team, Macdonald had to work through injuries to key players, including Pro Bowlers cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Marcus Williams. The rise of safeties Geno Stone and Hamilton and cornerback Brandon Stephens helped the team jump from the bottom tier of pass defense to the second best in the league in completion percentage (60.6) and yards per catch (5.9) during the regular season. Macdonald’s usage of Hamilton, specifically, added versatility and deceptiveness to the defense as the nickel back contributed in pass coverage, run defense and pass rush.
While the run defense was not as stout, the front truly found success in the pass rush. It consistently impacted quarterbacks without having to blitz. The Ravens recorded 397 quarterback pressures, the most since 2006 when PFF started tracking the stat.
Macdonald’s defense was complex. Hamilton, who aced the IQ tests at the NFL combine and is a certified genius, said it’s a “challenging” playbook. Yet every player who came in, as a backup or a late signing such as Kyle Van Noy, fit right in. Van Noy said Monday that, in addition to being very good at X’s and O’s, Macdonald is a great communicator and is great at “galvanizing” his team.
“He deserves everything that’s coming his way,” Hamilton said Monday. “If that is a head job somewhere, then we’re all super proud of him. I think everybody has their own journey [and] own time in this league, and he’s a hot name in this league right now, and deservedly so. He’s done a great job with us for the past couple years, and he’s earned it, and it hasn’t been given to him. I’m happy for him. If he stays here, that would be dope, too.”
Baltimore Banner reporter Jonas Shaffer contributed to this article.