Commanders Tipped to Follow Ravens Model and Hire Key John Harbaugh Assistant

John Harbaugh

Getty The Washington Commanders could follow the Baltimore Ravens model and hire one of John Harbaugh's key assistants as head coach.

Josh Harris knows how he wants the Washington Commanders to be built. The same way the Baltimore Ravens are constructed under head coach John Harbaugh. It’s why Harbaugh’s key assistant, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, is tipped to be the Commanders’ next head coach.

That’s the prediction from Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton. He detailed how “Macdonald has talked to five out of the six teams with a vacancy, but he has a connection with Commanders’ senior vice president of football strategy Eugene Shen, who rose through the ranks within the Baltimore Ravens front office before he came over to Washington.”

The presence of Shen isn’t the only reason to believe Macdonald will land with the Commanders. There’s also owner Harris’ admiration for the way the Ravens do things.

Moton referenced MMQB writer Albert Breer, who spelled out what how Harris feels about the Ravens: “I don’t know whether he’s settled on a model yet, but I have heard he’s intrigued by the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles, and how they’ve built their football operations out.”

Breer also pointed out how hiring Shen “could lead Washington looking at guys like Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz or defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.”

Commanders Can Go Against League Trend By Hiring Mike Macdonald

Macdonald’s background on defense may put some people off. Yet, Moton explained why the Commanders could miss out on some sought-after offensive coordinators: “The Commanders have requested to interview two of the top offensive coordinators, Ben Johnson and Bobby Slowik, but they may face stiffer competition for both candidates with the league favoring offensive hires.”

Macdonald would be a good consolation prize as the architect of the NFL’s toughest defense. Provided the Commanders are prepared to wait to speak with the play-caller busy preparing to face Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, January 28.

Choosing a defensive-minded head coach makes sense for the Commanders. It’s where the team needs the most help after fielding a unit ranked 32nd in points and yards this season.

Macdonald would surely change that based on how he’s turned the Ravens into a swarming group. He’s been able to create pressure without a blue-chip edge-rusher. Instead, Macdonald has shared pressure around, the way the Ravens did against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round.

The Ravens “had 12 different pass rushers generate a pressure & averaged their 3rd-quickest time to pressure of the season (2.40 seconds),” per Next Gen Stats.

Manufacturing pressure from all angles should appeal to the Commanders. They lack elite talent on the edge after trading away defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat during the season.

The Ravens don’t rely on D-ends, but trust supplemental blitzing from players like slot cornerback Arthur Maulet. He produced “three unblocked pressures” against C.J. Stroud and the Texans, according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who depicted one elaborate pressure package from the Macdonald playbook.

Maulet (10) blitzed off the edge, while inside linebacker Roquan Smith (0) bluffed a rush through the middle. They attacked while defensive tackles Justin Madubuike (92) and Travis Jones (98) bailed into underneath coverage.

This hotchpotch of pressure and disguise has made the Ravens dominant defensively. Macdonald’s schemes have also laid waste to the prominent offense favored by another of the Commanders’ prime head-coaching candidates.

John Harbaugh Lieutenant Has Edge Over Familiar Commanders Candidate

Mike and Kyle Shahanan left Washington in 2014, but the offense they devised and called remains at the forefront of today’s NFL. Hoping to tap back into that success is likely what’s prompted the Commanders to interview Texans’ OC Bobby Slowik.

The former Shanahan assistant met with the Commanders for an “in-person interview” on Tuesday, January 23, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Slowik’s candidacy has merit thanks to his work with rookie quarterback Stroud. The Commanders are likely to select a passer with the second-overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, so installing a QB-whisperer as head coach makes sense.

Yet, the same logic works if the Commanders were to hire a marquee coordinator to simply take over the offense. They could even leave Eric Bieniemy, who won two Super Bowls with Mahomes and the Chiefs, but struggled to develop Washington quarterback Sam Howell, in place.

That would clear a path to hire Macdonald for the top job and glean some of the Ravens’ team-building magic. Macdonald would fix a shoddy defense, while an offense loaded at the skill positions would still benefit from a new QB1.

Giving Macdonald the job would also provide the Commanders with some kryptonite against the vaunted Shanahan system. As ESPN’s Mina Kimes pointed out, “Shanahan offenses have been killing the league this year and Mike McDonald has been putting all of em thru hell. Every owner should want that.”

Macdonald’s defense not only bodied Slowik’s Texans and Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers. The unit also walloped a Detroit Lions’ offense called by another leading candidate for the Commanders job, Ben Johnson.

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