Can you hear those faint but unmistakable roars all across the country from various NFL cities? It’s the sound of unbridled jubilation from every single other team in the AFC and their fans. Nobody but the Kansas City Chiefs have a shot at a Super Bowl parade, but for now, who the f*ck cares?
Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Michael Macdonald is out of the conference. He has fled Baltimore after shutting out Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs in the second half of an AFC Championship Game to become the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Macdonald’s contract is for six years. Well damn… that’s a commitment.
Not that this was the most predictable hire, but it’s not a shocking one at all. It’s no surprise Seattle is maintaining its defense-dominant identity in the post-Pete Carroll era. Carroll is still in an advisor role in the organization after all. However, the refreshing part of this is they didn’t make a retread hire. Cowboys and ex-Seahawks DC Dan Quinn was viewed as a favorite for the gig. I thought for sure Seattle would go with an old head.
It would’ve been so Seattle to just blindly hire Quinn. Sorry for all the strays, Dan. I still think you’re a good defensive coordinator. But like…Mike Macdonald just hitsdifferent. I’m sure the 12th Man stans in the Emerald City will agree with me.
I don’t even feel like stating it again, but for any new readers: My belief is that sustainable success in the modern NFL is most likely when a franchise has a head coach capable of calling the offensive plays. There are exceptions, but that’s the general rule. Again, in this regard, Mike Macdonald hits different.
Before I get into why, check out this testimonial from Ravens first-team All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton. Pretty telling, IMO.
“He’s super cerebral. Probably the smartest guy in the building. Don’t tell him I said that… Whatever is coming in his future, he deserves it.”
You see, Macdonald has baffled the brightest offensive minds in the sport in schematic chess matches. Beyond holding Andy Reid’s Chiefs to zero points, Macdonald stopped the upstart Houston Texans in their tracks in the Divisional Round. CJ Stroud had the best all-around/all-things-considered season by a rookie QB ever. Texans OC Bobby Slowik was a hot head coaching candidate as a result. Macdonald’s Ravens, again, shut them out in the second half.
Slowik is from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree. You know, that guy who’s led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game in four of the last five years, and will now coach in his second Super Bowl in that same span. The biggest star among Shanahan’s former assistants is Sean McVay, the Super Bowl-winning coach of the Rams who came within one point of beating the Lions on Wild Card Weekend. That Lions team had the Niners on the canvas on Championship Sunday before an unfathomable collapse.
Well guess what? Macdonald is coming to the NFC West to head-on tackle the challenge of matching wits with Shanahan and McVay twice per season apiece. The balls it takes to do that are enormous. Whereas Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson apparently didn’t feel ready to be a head coach, Macdonald seems eager and fully prepared to step into the ring with the two best offensive minds in the sport for four out of 17 games.
McVay’s Rams were just about the only team to consistently gash Baltimore this season. They lost 37-31 in overtime on the road in rainy conditions thanks to a walk-off punt return by Tylan Wallace. Matthew Stafford was slinging it all over the field, though, and Kyren Williams racked up 112 yards on 25 carries. That was easily the most success anyone had against the Ravens all year.
But what did Macdonald do two weeks later to the best Shanahan-style offense of them all — the unit overseen by Shanahan himself? He forced MVP hopeful Brock Purdy into four interceptions as Baltimore rolled 33-19. The very next week, with the AFC’s No. 1 seed more or less on the line against another Shanahan-style offense versus Mike McDaniel’s Miami Dolphins, the Ravens embarrassed the Fins 56-19.
I understand that Baltimore has some serious dudes on defense. Nevertheless, for Macdonald baffle and shut down Shanahan, McDaniel, and Slowik? Then shut out Reid/Mahomes/the Chiefs after halftime? All in a five-game span? That might be the all-time heater to end all-time heaters, with all due respect to the only AFC defensive coordinator still standing (and killing it), Steve Spagnuolo.
The #Ravens defense led by Mike Macdonald played the NFC West this past season. They went 4-0, beating the Seahawks, Rams, 49ers and Cardinals.
Baltimore's defense forced 9 turnovers in those games.
If Seattle wasn’t going to poach the next Shanahan/McVay guy, Mike Macdonald was the best possible defensive candidate they could’ve hired. And oh by the way, the Seahawks have some dudes of their own on defense. Tariq Woolen fell off a bit after a promising rookie campaign, but him and high 2023 first-round pick Devon Witherspoon have the raw ability to be the best cornerback duo in the entire NFL.
Hard to fathom letting Bobby Wagner walk as a free agent considering the dire need Seattle has at the linebacker position, unless he wants to play for a more “obvious” championship contender. I could see Wagner sticking around to see what Macdonald is about.
The Seahawks’ defense shouldn’t be a big worry. I know that sounds weird since they finished 30th in total yards allowed. Macdonald is a total game-changer in that regard. Seattle has also crushed the draft lately, and although they’re not the most salary cap-flush team this offseason, they can restructure enough contracts, hit Jamal Adams with a post-June 1 cut designation to save $16.5 million, and should open up enough room to re-sign Wagner and defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Beyond that, the big question is on offense. Macdonald’s hire for OC will be key for Geno Smith to serve as an above-average starter. That’s all he really needs to be if Macdonald’s scheme and caliber of talent are sound. Both should be in short order.
Ravens’ defense under Mike Macdonald allowed the fewest points per game (16.5), while also recording the most sacks (60) and takeaways (31) this past season. https://t.co/1O0e2l8Pkk
Let’s not get too in the weeds about hypothetical offensive coordinators. The main point is, Mike Macdonald has the makings of a home run hire. If he flops, we may see even less defensive-minded guys get head coaching jobs in the future. Macdonald has the chance to change the sport.
His hiring is that much of an inflection point. At 36 years old, he’s the youngest head coach in the NFL. I’m hyped for the 12s. Go get it, man.