Scheduling two interviews with Mike Macdonald in a two-day period, the Seahawks effectively displayed their interest in the two-year Ravens defensive coordinator. That proved to be telling for the franchise’s future.
The Seahawks are hiring Macdonald as their next head coach, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. The team will go from employing the league’s oldest active HC, in Pete Carroll, to the youngest. Macdonald is 36. Wednesday’s second meeting became themed around a hire, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who notes Macdonald has since agreed to the deal. After a report Tuesday pointed to Macdonald and Giants OC Mike Kafka being firmly in the mix, the Seahawks will go with a defense-based candidate.
Baltimore’s AFC championship game loss to Kansas City removed any restrictions Macdonald would have had regarding interview scheduling, but Rapoport adds the Seahawks were willing to wait on him if the Ravens held seed and qualified for Super Bowl LVIII. That did not prove necessary, and Macdonald can get to work on assembling a staff. As Macdonald-Seahawks conversations continue today, coordinator candidates are undoubtedly coming up. With the team in that phase, the Commanders are now the only club with a coaching vacancy remaining.
Being a year younger than Sean McVay and Jerod Mayo, Macdonald is 36 years younger than Carroll, who became only the fourth coach to lead an NFL team at age 72. Carroll had announced intentions to stay for a 15th season. Even as Carroll pushed to keep his job in the days following the season, the Seahawks moved on. GM John Schneider, who now wields full personnel control for the first time, will go with a candidate who was on many teams’ lists this year. Dan Quinn emerged as the first name in the mix to succeed Carroll, but the Dallas DC — and Seattle’s DC during both 2010s Super Bowl seasons — is down to the Commanders or staying with the Cowboys.
Macdonald will sign a six-year contract with the NFC West franchise, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports. While this is not a rebuilding situation, the Seahawks will still show a long-term commitment to their young HC. Four- and five-year deals are a bit more common in the NFL, though some six-year pacts have emerged in the recent past. Kyle Shanahan signed one as the 49ers were rebuilding. So did Dan Campbell in 2021. The Panthers just gave Dave Canales a six-year deal. Carroll did not leave the Seahawks in need of an overhaul, however, making this term length interesting.
The Seahawks’ investment comes after Macdonald displayed his value during his second Ravens stint. Baltimore’s defense ranked first this season, which came after a third-place finish in scoring defense in 2022. The Ravens ranked in the top 10 in yardage in each of Macdonald’s two seasons in charge. Baltimore’s defense has been one of the NFL’s most reliable units during the 21st century; Macdonald continued this run, one that helped the team secure the AFC’s No. 1 seed for the second time in franchise history. Don Martindale‘s DC successor interviewed for the Commanders, Chargers, Falcons, Panthers and Titans’ HC jobs.
Macdonald managed to coax a monster season from contract-year defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, who smashed career highs with 13 sacks and 33 QB hits. The Ravens also received steady production from edge rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, despite both veterans’ late arrivals. Clowney signed with Baltimore in August, while Van Noy did not arrive until late September. The two vets combined for 18.5 sacks this season, helping the Ravens lead the league with 60. Baltimore will not lose both coordinators, however, with OC Todd Monken not in contention for the Washington job.
Carroll’s final years brought a defensive regression in Seattle. The Seahawks ranked 30th in total defense this season and 26th in 2022; two-year DC Clint Hurtt left to become the Eagles’ defensive line coach. The Carroll-led defenses have trended down since the Legion of Boom-driven apex produced back-to-back Super Bowl berths. While the Seahawks became the first team since the 1950s Browns to lead the NFL in scoring defense in four straight seasons (2012-15), they have not ranked in the top 10 in this area since 2016.
A Ravens position coach before spending 2021 as Jim Harbaugh‘s DC at Michigan, Macdonald reviving the Seahawks’ defense would go a long way toward helping the team become a legitimate contender again. Although Geno Smith did not match his 2022 work, the journeyman passer did again display starter-caliber chops after re-signing last March. The Seahawks also have veteran wideouts Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf under contract, along with two young running backs and two 2022 draftees at tackle (Charles Cross, Abraham Lucas). Inconsistency plagued the Seahawks on offense this past season, but the team has Smith on a low-end — for a veteran QB — contract; that three-year, $75MM deal runs through the 2025 season.
Macdonald becomes the Seahawks’ third consecutive hire with a defensive background. Carroll replaced Jim Mora Jr. in 2010, guiding the franchise to its zenith. The Seahawks had plateaued during Carroll’s later years. As the Legion of Boom splintered, the team became a Russell Wilson-dependent operation. The second half of Wilson’s Seattle tenure featured steady growth as a passer and will go a long way toward his Hall of Fame case, but the Seahawks struggled to build a reliable roster around the since-traded QB. They appeared to fare better on this front after re-signing Smith last year, giving Dre’Mont Jones a $17MM-AAV deal and trading for rental piece Leonard Williams. The team also used a No. 5 overall pick — obtained in the Wilson swap — on Devon Witherspoon. The Illinois alum’s Pro Bowl season points to him being a key piece under Macdonald going forward.
After back-to-back 9-8 seasons, the Seahawks will now bet on their young HC investment elevating this operation. It will be interesting to see if the team makes an investment in a young quarterback this offseason or continues to build its roster around Smith. With Seattle not blocking its assistants from exploring other jobs, three-year OC Shane Waldron signed on to be Chicago’s play-caller. Macdonald will be tasked with bringing in a replacement soon.