The Ravens on Thursday named Zach Orr, a former player and Baltimore’s inside linebackers coach the past two seasons, as Mike Macdonald’s replacement at defensive coordinator, placing him at the helm of the league’s best defense.
It’s flattering to have your assistants interview for head coaching jobs in the NFL. It’s an indication that you’re in an enviable position as a franchise and you’re hiring the right people. But it also shows how easily talent can be poached from your ranks and just how tenuous success is.
The Ravens could be victims of their own success this offseason. Their 13-4 regular-season record put them atop most power rankings, but it’s also drawn the attention of less successful teams in search of new leadership.
In this space, I’ll be keeping track of the movement of the team’s assistant coaches, providing key information about each head coach and coordinator candidate, and updating the list with each reported interview.
We should note, now that Mike Macdonald has been hired by the Seahawks, he’ll need to fill his own staff and could draw from the current Ravens coaches. Several defensive assistants have been coveted for coordinating positions, and quarterback coach Tee Martin could be an option as offensive coordinator.
Position: Defensive coordinator
Résumé: Macdonald’s name was bandied about as a head coaching candidate for over a year. The 36-year-old worked his way up through the ranks in Baltimore, beginning as an intern in 2014, then holding various positions on the defensive side from 2015-20. After a one-year stint serving as the defensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, Macdonald returned to the Ravens to fill the same role under Jim’s brother, John.
With an abundance of talented players at his disposal, Macdonald has run a versatile, form-defying defense to great success. The Ravens were the first team in modern NFL history to finish first in points per game allowed (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31). By moving safety Kyle Hamilton all over the field, Macdonald helped the 2022 first-rounder realize his immense potential. Linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen received Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods, and safety Geno Stone led the team with seven interceptions, second most in the NFL.
Macdonald may be soft-spoken, but he exudes confidence and intelligence, and he’s widely regarded as one of the best young defensive minds in the game.
Hired as head coach: Seahawks
Position: Offensive coordinator
Résumé: A native of Illinois, Monken made his first foray into the NFL in 2007 as the Jaguars’ wide receivers coach before being named the head coach at Southern Miss. Monken returned to the league three years later as the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. After a stint in Cleveland, he returned to college, where he helped Georgia to a pair of national championships. When the Ravens fired Greg Roman after the 2022 season, they brought in Monken to breathe new life into an offense that had become stale.
Under Monken, quarterback Lamar Jackson took on more responsibility and gained a stronger voice in shaping the offense. The results were nothing short of phenomenal. Jackson set a career-high in passing yards and is the favorite to win his second MVP award. Despite not having any receiver cross the 1,000-yard threshold, Baltimore has produced a group that ranked fourth in the NFL in points per game (28.4). And, even though they were without running back J.K. Dobbins for all but one game, the Ravens topped the league in rushing yards per game (156.5).
Monken’s ability to blend offensive styles and get the most out of Jackson has made him a strong candidate for teams looking to develop their signal callers. His energetic and vocal style has been a welcome addition in Baltimore, and he has a reputation of building strong connections with QBs.
Position: Associate head coach and defensive line coach
Résumé: A 2002 second-round pick by the Ravens, Weaver lined up on defense for seven NFL seasons, recording 15.5 career sacks. Since 2012, the 43-year-old has served as the defensive line coach for five teams and was the defensive coordinator for the Texans in 2020. When he returned to Baltimore in 2021, Weaver was also named run game coordinator, and this season he was the team’s associate head coach.
The Ravens’ defensive line has been one of the strongest components of arguably the best unit in football. Even though the Ravens led the league in sacks (60), they ranked near the bottom in quarterback hurries (28) and pressure rate (19.5%). Justin Madubuike is headed toward a huge payday in free agency after racking up 13 sacks, the most of any defensive tackle in football. Veterans Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy enjoyed resurgent seasons, combining for 18.5 sacks. The run defense wasn’t quite as good, as Baltimore ranked 14th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.
Weaver is respected around the league, and his ascension to associate head coach is a sign of his importance to the team.
Reportedly requested a second interview: Falcons (position filled)
Hired as defensive coordinator: Dolphins
Position: Defensive backs coach
Résumé: Born in Hyattsville, Wilson played safety at the University of Maryland before going undrafted in 2004 and spending a year on Washington’s practice squad. The 41-year-old was a pro scout for the Bears for three years before joining the Rams’ staff as defensive quality control coach in 2012. Wilson was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2015, and he later filled that role for the Jets, Eagles and now Ravens.
Even while star cornerback Marlon Humphrey was in and out of the lineup with injury, the Ravens’ defensive backfield held up well, ranking sixth in passing yards per game allowed (191.9). In addition to stellar years from Hamilton and Stone, the Ravens enjoyed the steady development of 2021 third-round pick Brandon Stephens, while veterans Ronald Darby and Arthur Maulet made quality contributions.
In addition to his role as defensive backs coach, Wilson served as passing game coordinator in New York and Philadelphia, showing his ability to lend his knowledge to both sides of the ball.
Reportedly requested a second defensive coordinator interview: Giants
Hired as defensive coordinator: Titans
Position: Passing game coordinator and secondary coach
Résumé: Hewitt’s path to the Ravens is a unique one. Born in Jamaica, Hewitt moved to New Jersey at age 5 and became a three-sport athlete in high school. After four years as a defensive back at the University of Cincinnati and three in the NFL with the Jaguars, he joined Greg Schiano’s staff at Rutgers in 2004. Hewitt participated in the NFL’s Minority Coaching Fellowship Program, working with the Browns, Eagles and Ravens, who hired him in 2012.
Hewitt was an assistant special teams coach on Baltimore’s Super Bowl-winning squad, then took over as secondary coach in 2015. In his nine seasons, the 49-year-old has guided some top playmakers, including Marcus Peters, Eric Weddle, Earl Thomas and Marlon Humphrey. This season, the Ravens were the sixth-stingiest defense against the pass, allowing 191.9 yards per game. Humphrey struggled to stay on the field and safety Marcus Williams played through injury during the regular season, but the play of Brandon Stephens, Arthur Maulet, Ronald Darby and Geno Stone buoyed the unit, a testament to Hewitt’s ability to get the most out of his players.
Hewitt interviewed for the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator position when Doug Pederson assembled his first staff in Jacksonville, but the position was ultimately given to Joe Cullen.
Reportedly requested a defensive coordinator interview: Jaguars (position filled)
Reportedly promoted to assistant head coach: Ravens
Position: Wide receivers coach
Résumé: Despite being a walk-on at the University of Illinois and an going undrafted in 2003, Lewis compiled an eight-year career in the NFL and had several shining moments for the Eagles and Vikings, playing in 11 playoff games and catching a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIX. After three years coaching in college, Lewis was hired as an offensive assistant in New Orleans in 2015, then returned to Philadelphia as wide receivers coach. He reunited with his former head coach Andy Reid the following year, overseeing the running backs for three seasons before switching to back to the wide receivers from 2021-22.
Baltimore brought in Lewis to oversee a revamped group of pass catchers in 2023. Though the Ravens did not have a 1,000-yard receiver and finished 21st in passing yards per game, Lamar Jackson reached new heights this season, thanks in large part to his new weapons. After a year spent rehabbing a torn ACL, Odell Beckham Jr. showed he still has something to contribute, and Zay Flowers broke the Ravens’ rookie records for receptions and receiving yards. Nelson Agholor was a steady third receiver as well, racking up 381 yards.
Lewis has shown he can work with players with varying level of experience, and his contributions to two Super Bowl-winning teams in Kansas City will not go unnoticed by teams looking to hire a new offensive coordinator.
Reportedly requested an offensive coordinator interview: Saints (position filled)
Position: Inside linebackers coach
Résumé: Orr’s ties to the Ravens go back to his playing days, when he spent three seasons in Dean Pees’ defense. The former University of North Texas standout started 15 games in his final NFL season, playing alongside future five-time Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley. Orr was forced to step away from the field because of a congenital neck/spine condition in 2016 but remained in the organization, assisting the defense from 2017-20. He served as the Jaguars outside linebackers coach in 2021, then returned to coach the inside linebackers in Baltimore the following year.
The Ravens boasted perhaps the league’s best tandem of inside linebackers in 2023. Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen were each named to the Pro Bowl and played 97% of the team’s defensive snaps, anchoring Mike Macdonald’s unit. Queen benefited greatly from Smith’s arrival midway through the 2022 season, and both players were ranked in the top 25 at their positions by Pro Football Focus.
Smith and Queen are incredible talents, but it’s easy to forget Smith was seen as a regressing player in his final year with the Bears and Queen’s first two professional seasons were forgettable. Orr’s work to transform this pairing is what has gotten him on teams’ radars.
Reportedly requested a defensive coordinator interview: Packers
Hired as defensive coordinator: Ravens