Ravens Promote Zach Orr To DC

A day after Mike Macdonald‘s departure for Seattle, the Ravens have a new defensive coordinator. Once again, Baltimore will give its defensive play-calling gig to a staffer who brings extensive experience with the franchise.

The Ravens announced Thursday they are elevating inside linebackers coach Zach Orr to replace Macdonald. A former Ravens linebacker, Orr has been on the team’s staff for all but one season since 2017. Multiple logical candidates appeared in place for the Ravens, but it will be Orr who takes over.

The Packers interviewed Orr on Wednesday but went with Boston College HC Jeff Hafley. At 31, Orr will become the NFL’s second-youngest defensive coordinator. Cardinals DC Nick Rallis is 30.

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This promotion comes after Dennard Wilson agreed to leave for Tennessee. The Titans reached an agreement to hire Wilson, who spent this past season as the Ravens’ defensive backs coach, as their next DC. D-line coach Anthony Weaver also stood as a clear option, considering he booked two interviews for the Commanders’ HC job and has coordinator experience (2020 in Houston). But Orr loomed as the favorite over Weaver, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec tweets.

The Seahawks also considered Orr an option to become their next DC, according to ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson. Orr worked under Macdonald over the past two seasons and coached alongside him in Baltimore from 2017-20. While this could open the door for Weaver in Seattle, it is a bit early to make predictions before the Seahawks start a search.

Orr has ascended fairly quickly in Baltimore. His playing career ended early due to a neck injury. A congenital neck condition stalled Orr’s ascent as a Ravens defender. He started 15 games for the Ravens in 2016, moving into the lineup that year and making 133 tackles. Despite the Ravens rostering C.J. Mosley at the time, Orr led the ’16 team in tackles and intercepted three passes. The neck problem interrupted Orr as a player, but he was part of the Ravens’ coaching staff soon after that retirement.

Learning the ropes as a defensive analyst from 2017-20, Orr received a chance to coach a position in Jacksonville in 2021. Unfortunately for Orr, that came under Urban Meyer. The Jaguars scrapped the Meyer operation, which included Orr as an outside linebackers coach, months after greenlighting it. The Ravens rehired Orr in 2022, and he has mentored one of the league’s best linebacking duos in that span. Baltimore saw both its inside ‘backers — Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen — earn Pro Bowl nods. After an iffy first two seasons, Queen has taken off with Smith and Orr in the fold. Queen is a candidate to leave in free agency, seeing as the Ravens have Smith tied to the NFL’s top ILB contract. But the Ravens will again ensure continuity on their defensive staff.

Baltimore hired Macdonald from Michigan, but he had been on John Harbaugh‘s staff from 2014-20. The continuity-based franchise has made familiarity a prerequisite for this job. The Ravens bumped Don Martindale up to DC in 2018, after he had spent the previous six seasons on staff. Dean Pees was a Ravens assistant before moving to DC in 2012, with Chuck Pagano taking the same path previously. Both Greg Mattison and Rex Ryan were position coaches in Baltimore prior to moving up, with Mike Nolan doing the same in 2002.

Marvin Lewis was hired from outside the organization, but seeing as that took place during the year the Browns morphed into the Ravens (1996), this Baltimore-based franchise has never looked beyond its facility for a DC option. Orr will continue the pipeline, being the first ex-Ravens player to take this job.

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