A recent article by the Washington Post revealed that an anonymous NFL General Manager believed that Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator, Mike MacDonald, is a candidate for a head coach gig in the next hiring cycle.
Roquan Smith on "brilliant mind" Mike Macdonald:
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 6, 2023
Mike MacDonald Candidate for Head Coach Opportunities
MacDonald, 36, has been the Ravens defensive coordinator for two seasons. Despite his youth, he has quietly been one of the league’s best defensive coordinators.
This year, the Ravens have allowed the second-fewest average yards per game (273.9 yards). They have also allowed the fewest touchdowns (16).
In the 2022 season, the Ravens defense allowed the third-fewest points per game (18.5) and ninth-fewest yards per game (324.3 yards). It is worth noting that the defense had a rocky start before steadying the ship and finishing as the NFL’s top-ranked defense after the arrival of Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears.
While MacDonald has been getting his flowers, Ravens Offensive Coordinator, Todd Monken, has also garnered some head coaching interest. Indeed, some would argue that Monken is even likelier to get a head coaching gig than MacDonald. His work with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense has been nothing short of exceptional.
Should the Ravens lose both of their stud coordinators, they would find themselves in a tricky position next year with no clear heirs. The Ravens have been an impressive outfit this year as they look destined for a run at the Super Bowl.
However, losing both coordinators could heavily impact hopes for success in 2024.
Why Mike MacDonald is Primed for Head Coach Job Soon
A Master Tactician
As his defensive unit has shown, MacDonald is one of the smartest defensive coordinators in the league. He has held his own against the NFL’s best and has neutralized some of the league’s best offenses before.
The defensive scheme that MacDonald runs is a highly versatile one that appears to be a hybrid between a four and three-man front. The linking philosophy, however, appears to be playing to his players’ strengths.
A good example of this is the Ravens defense’s three-safety package. Marcus Williams, Geno Stone and Kyle Hamilton are all among the league’s top players at their positions (just look at the Pro Bowl voting). Yet most coordinators would likely only find a way to get two of them on the field at once.
For MacDonald, this was not an issue. His three-safety package meant that he could get his best players on the field and make the most of Stone and Hamilton’s versatility.
Another unique feature of the Ravens defensive scheme is the pass rush. The team lacks a true premier pass rusher yet MacDonald’s unit has been among the best at pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
MacDonald’s use of hybrid fronts has been paramount here. Justin Madubuike, Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy and Odafe Oweh are among the key players that have been deployed in multiple different ways to confuse offenses.
MacDonald also called a five-man rush against the Los Angeles Chargers on a Hail Mary play. It resulted in an interception as Herbert was unable to set his feet properly, leading to a severe underthrow.
Hey Mike, it's Hail Mary time. Should we rush two guys, maybe three?
— Huddle It Up Films (@HuddleItUpFilms) November 28, 2023
A huge part of a head coach’s job is centered around player progression and MacDonald has certainly demonstrated his prowess here.
Players like Oweh, Stone, and Brandon Stephens were starting to become afterthoughts before MacDonald’s promotion. However, over the last two years, those three have become key members of the defense.
Oweh is, by far, the team’s best pure pass rusher. Stone has gone from backup to Pro Bowl safety. Stephens has cemented himself as a starting outside cornerback (and has even outperformed Marlon Humphrey this season).
Other young players have also seen growth. Patrick Queen is among the biggest beneficiaries. He is expected to receive a huge payday in free agency.
Madubuike is another player who has made strides under MacDonald. His quiet breakout has made him one of Baltimore’s most important players.
It is also important to recognize MacDonald’s great work with Hamilton. The Swiss army knife has been one of the league’s most dynamic defensive playmakers this year and a lot of that is thanks to MacDonald’s ability to harness Hamilton’s talent.
A lot of versatile players like Hamilton have been the victims of mismanagement in the past, such as Isaiah Simmons. As such, MacDonald’s work with Hamilton should not be overlooked.
Another big part of being a head coach is building a strong culture. MacDonald likely ticks this box too.
Many teams have shown their admiration for the Ravens culture before. Baltimore has found success year on year and a large part of that has been down to the team’s winning culture more than any ‘x’s and o’s’.
At 36, MacDonald’s youth would mean that any team that hires him would be able to invest in a long-term project that could mirror the culture-building that Baltimore have mastered.
One knock against MacDonald is his lack of experience in multiple franchises. As a result, his NFL connections are limited to just the ones he has formed in the Ravens facility. This could be a problem when MacDonald is tasked with hiring coordinators.
However, despite that, MacDonald has some strong player connections already. A key one worth monitoring is Queen. Any team that hires MacDonald this hiring cycle will be heavily linked to Queen, who has flourished under MacDonald’s tutelage.
Stone, an impending free agent, is another player that MacDonald could reunite with on another franchise.
Perhaps another name to watch is Joe Hortiz. Hortiz is currently the Ravens Director of Player Personnel but has been touted as a favorite to land a General Manager gig soon. A team looking for a total revamp could get both Hortiz and MacDonald if they are truly enamored with the Ravens system.
Main Photo: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports