Who Is Mike Macdonald? Seahawks New Lead Man Becomes Youngest Head Coach in the NFL

The Seahawks have named Mike Macdonald as their next head coach, choosing the former Ravens DC to replace franchise icon Pete Carroll.

The Seattle Seahawks have found their Pete Carroll replacement. On Wednesday, Seattle reportedly agreed to hire former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald as its new head coach.

The Seahawks Hire Mike Macdonald

Six of the eight NFL teams with head coaching vacancies this offseason had already hired new HCs, so the Seahawks were a bit behind the eight-ball.

Still, Seattle always seemed interested in Macdonald despite not booking an initial virtual interview with Baltimore’s DC earlier this month. The Seahawks waited until Baltimore was eliminated from the playoffs before conducting their first interview with Macdonald on Jan. 30, then held a follow-up meeting on Jan. 31.

MORE: 2024 NFL Head Coaching Interview Tracker

Six other candidates booked second interviews with Seattle: Carolina Panthers DC Ejiro Evero, Las Vegas Raiders DC Patrick Graham, Detroit Lions OC Ben Johnson, New York Giants OC Mike Kafka, Los Angeles Rams DC Raheem Morris, and Dallas Cowboys DC Dan Quinn.

Johnson withdrew from head coaching consideration on Jan. 30. Morris was hired as the Atlanta Falcons’ HC the day he was scheduled to conduct his second interview with the Seahawks.

Macdonald, 36, was arguably the top defensive-minded head coaching candidate on the 2024 hiring circuit. After spending the 2021 campaign as the University of Michigan’s DC under Jim Harbaugh, Macdonald joined John Harbaugh as the Ravens’ defensive play-caller in 2022, replacing Wink Martindale.

Baltimore’s defensive production is Macdonald’s résumé. Here’s where the Ravens’ defense ranked in several critical categories in 2023:

  • Points per game: 16.5 (first)
  • Points per drive: 1.35 (first)
  • Yards per play: 4.6 (first)
  • DVOA: -23.3% (first)
  • EPA per play: 0.069 (sixth)
  • Scoring rate allowed: 28.7% (third)
  • Turnover rate: 14.4% (fifth)
  • Sacks: 60 (first)

The numbers are impressive, but how Macdonald managed Baltimore’s defense might’ve been even more indicative of his potential as a head coach.

Sure, Macdonald helped guide elite talents like LB Roquan Smith and S Kyle Hamilton to first-team All-Pro campaigns. But he also got a career-best season out of veteran pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney. Kyle Van Noy wasn’t signed until September but still garnered a role.

Macdonald coaxed contributions from journeyman defenders like Ronald Darby and Arthur Maulet and worked around injuries to significant pieces such as CB Marlon Humphrey and S Marcus Williams. Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike is in line for a massive free agent contract this spring after a 2023 breakout that Macdonald likely played a hand in.

“Mike Macdonald allows us to just be ourselves at the end of the day,” Smith said in January. “He gives us such a unique plan [to] dissect offenses like no other. Like he’s a mad scientist in a sense, and then [he] gives it to us in a way that we understand it.”

Macdonald will head to Seattle hoping to affect that same kind of change. The Seahawks’ defense ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every metric. They struggled equally against the pass and the run, allowed more first downs (380) than any team in the NFL, and gave up a score on 40.4% of opposing drives, the fifth-worst rate in the league.

Despite Seattle’s poor results, the club has a few building blocks in place. Pass rushers Dre’Mont Jones, Boye Mafe, and Uchenna Nwosu (recovering from a torn pectoral) give the Seahawks an intriguing front. Their defensive backfield is full of above-average players like Devon Witherspoon, Tariq Woolen, Quandre Diggs, and Julian Love.

MORE: Seattle Seahawks Depth Chart

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Geno Smith, receivers DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njibga, and offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas comprise a solid foundation. Macdonald should be able to procure an offensive coordinator willing to work with Seattle’s pieces.

Macdonald was an assistant at the University of Georgia (his alma mater) for four years before joining the Ravens’ staff as a coaching intern in 2014. He rose the ranks over the next seven seasons, coaching defensive backs and linebackers before departing for the Univerity of Michigan in 2021.

Grading Seattle’s Macdonald Hire

By all accounts, the Seahawks have landed a brilliant head coach. One decision-maker involved in 2024 head coaching searches told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that Macdonald gave the best interview and labeled Seattle’s new HC a “defensive Sean McVay.”

Countless Ravens players have lauded Macdonald’s near-obsessive level of detail, and his preparedness was regularly displayed in Baltimore.

Macdonald pulled all the right levers as the Ravens’ DC while running the league’s most modern unit, consistently disguising and varying his coverage looks. Baltimore didn’t play any single coverage on more than 30% of its defensive snaps, while Macdonald ran Cover 1, Cover 3, Quarters, and Cover 6 at rates of at least 15%.

He deployed simulated pressures at the NFL’s fourth-highest rate (27.1%), constantly forcing opposing offensive lines to waste blockers. When the Ravens played the San Francisco 49ers, he sent blitzes to harass Brock Purdy. Against the Miami Dolphins’ quick passing attack, Macdonald eschewed the pass rush and put more defenders in coverage.

Macdonald needs to find a similar creative partner to run Seattle’s offense, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

While he’s not yet 40, Macdonald’s NFL career began a decade ago, so he likely has plenty of contacts around the NFL willing to join the Seahawks.

Several candidates from Baltimore’s staff could make sense. Ravens QB coach Tee Martin was USC’s offensive coordinator and has interviewed for NFL OC positions. WR coach Greg Lewis is a candidate for the New Orleans Saints’ OC job, while TE coach George Godsey is a two-time NFL offensive play-caller.

Grade: A

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