The Ravens secured what they hope will be the next in a line of mostly outstanding defensive coordinators in their 28-year history when the team promoted inside linebackers coach Zach Orr yesterday. Orr staying in Baltimore, a city in which he’s spent nine years as both a player and coach, seems like a no-brainer, but according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2, the team’s new coordinator had another offer: the Packers.
This report comes with a bit of speculation as it stems from an unnamed “league source,” but the timeline holds up. The Packers’ hire of former Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley as their newest defensive coordinator came as a bit of a surprise with no reports of an interview taking place before his sudden appointment. There are perhaps two reasons for this.
The first would be that Hafley is a college football coach who must deal with the trials of the recruiting trail. If Hafley were reported to be interviewing for NFL jobs, any recruits the Eagles were hoping to land may think twice about committing to a coach who isn’t himself committed to the school. If news of an interview surfaced and Hafley returned to Boston College for the 2024 NCAA season, he would likely face innumerable questions concerning the plans for his future in Chestnut Hill.
The second reason pertains to his existing relationship with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. The two are reportedly close friends. This could mean that, due to their friendly nature, the two had off-the-record conversations toying with the idea of a team-up. The theory would then become that Hafley was available as a backup option should LaFleur and company fail to land their preferred option, which was reportedly Orr.
Here’s where the other part of the timeline comes into play. Hafley was hired on January 31, the same day as Orr’s interview for the defensive coordinator job in Green Bay. In theory, Orr was offered the job on the spot, Green Bay having waited patiently for the Ravens to be eliminated from the playoffs. Orr, anticipating the likelihood of a promotion within his current organization, would’ve then turned the Packers down, prompting LaFleur to reach out and hire his good buddy later that day.
This theory makes sense when you consider Baltimore’s history of internal hires for defensive coordinator. After hiring Marvin Lewis in the Ravens’ inaugural season, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan, Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano, Dean Pees, and Don “Wink” Martindale were all promoted from internally to defensive coordinator. Mike Macdonald was technically the team’s first external hire for the position, coming from the University of Michigan, but that’s only if you discount the seven years he spent on-staff in Baltimore before his single year in Ann Arbor.
Orr had to have a good idea that he or Ravens associate head coach and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver stood the best chance of succeeding Macdonald as coordinator. If he felt particularly good about his prospects for the promotion, it makes sense that he would turn the Packers down just to be hired into the Ravens’ position the next day. In fact, Orr could’ve taken that Packers’ offer to leverage a similar advancement in Baltimore then informed Green Bay of his decision later that day.
If this report proves to be accurate, it paints an interesting picture for both teams. In Green Bay, it tells the story of a swing and a miss on one of the league’s up-and-coming, young coaches. In Baltimore, it shows how badly the Ravens wanted to hold on to Orr, who coached inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen to first- and second-team All-Pro honors, respectively, this season.
The Ravens knew that, in addition to losing Macdonald, they were likely to see whomever they didn’t promote between Orr and Weaver walk, as well. Head coach John Harbaugh and company claim that they’re really trying to hold onto to Weaver after passing him up for the coordinator position, but he seems destined for that promotion elsewhere as the current frontrunner for the Dolphins’ coordinator job. The 31-year-old Orr was the choice for Baltimore, though he was reportedly the choice in Green Bay first.