John Harbaugh is used to seeing quality assistants get hired by teams looking for new head coaches, but the Baltimore Ravens’ boss won’t want to lose defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald so soon.
Harbaugh may not have a choice because “Macdonald is expected to get multiple interviews for open jobs,” according to The 33rd Team’s Paul Domowitch. The latter acknowledged “there clearly is a bias toward offensive coaches when it comes to NFL head coaching opportunities,” but Macdonald has the credentials to change minds.
He only took over the Ravens’ defense in 2022, but the former Michigan play-caller has quickly developed one of the toughest units in the NFL: “It’s second in points and yards allowed and first in sacks and touchdown passes allowed. The Ravens also are tied for seventh in takeaways. They’ve given up more than 24 points just once in 12 games.”
It’s possible a short track record will harm Macdonald’s chances, but an unnamed AFC general manager told Domowitch why things could be different: “Many owners don’t really trust themselves. When a guy has had shorter term success, they’re worried. But the smart teams will interview (Macdonald).”
The Ravens should be worried about losing a creative play designer who is overseeing a defense already drawing comparisons with the best in franchise history.
Mike Macdonald’s Defense Justifying Comparisons With 2000 Unit
Even being mentioned in the same breath as the legendary unit of 2000 is lofty praise for any Ravens defense. Macdonald’s D’ merited a place in the conversation by topping the 2000 vintage in two statistical categories earlier this season.
The statistics that count are the Super Bowl the 2000 group won after a run of allowing just 165 points, the fewest ever in a 16-game season. Those Ravens surrendered a mere 10.3 points a game, per NFL Research.
Macdonald’s unit isn’t at that level yet. Instead, the 2023 Ravens have yielded 187 points through 12 games.
It’s still a more than respectable number, and Macdonald needn’t feel bad about not bettering the legends of the past. Not when his defense tops the NFL charts with 47 sacks.
Macdonald is making the most of the many first-round talents at his disposal. Edge-rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Odafe Oweh, inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith, safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerback Marlon Humphrey all came off draft boards in Round 1.
Six first-round draft picks also suited up for the 2000 Ravens when they won lifted the Lombardi Trophy, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Like Marvin Lewis, the coordinator in 2000, Macdonald has melded premium draftees with quality veteran retreads and late-round picks who have developed nicely on his watch. The combination has helped more than one Ravens’ defensive coordinator land a top job.
Mike Macdonald Can Become Latest John Harbaugh DC to Earn Promotion
Rex Ryan and Chuck Pagano both turned stints as Harbaugh’s DC into tenures as head coaches. Macdonald can become the next defensive chief to earn a promotion.
Interested teams will welcome how he’s developed fourth-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike. The latter is leading the Ravens with 10 sacks, while former seventh-round pick Geno Stone has become the most opportunistic safety in the NFL by snaring six interceptions.
More than individual achievement, Macdonald is producing collective brilliance via a complex scheme. His X’s and O’s are built upon a sophisticated package of blitzes, like this pressure against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9, highlighted by Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire.
Macdonald’s proved he can baffle offensive coordinators and quarterbacks with unexpected rushers and disguised coverage. He’s also shown an ability to develop young players, along with a knack for coaxing continued excellence from veterans supposedly past their prime, like 32-year-old outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
If his defense cements its reputation with a deep run in the playoffs, Macdonald will surely be at the top of lists for teams looking for new head coaches.