Mike MacDonald

AFC Coaching Notes: Colts, Bills, Jaguars, Ravens

Since Frank Reich was able to land defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to replace Bears’ head coach Matt Eberflus, Bradley has begun the process of putting his staff together. Today Bradley added longtime defensive backs coach Ron Milus to coach his secondary, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Milus first started coaching defensive backs at his alma mater, the University of Washington, about eight years after playing cornerback there. He held the college position for seven years before getting an NFL coaching opportunity in 2000. Since then, Milus hasn’t spent a season out of work with stints in Denver, Arizona, New York (Giants), St. Louis, Carolina, San Diego, and Las Vegas. His longest stint was with the Chargers, spending eight years in southern California and transitioning with the team to Los Angeles. It was in Los Angeles that Milus was retained when Bradley joined the Chargers’ staff. He followed Bradley to Las Vegas and will join him once more in Indianapolis.

Here are a few other coaching notes from around the AFC starting with another bit from the Hoosier State:

  • In addition to Milus, Mike Chappell of Fox59 reports that Indianapolis is also in the process of hiring linebackers coach Richard Smith, who worked with Bradley and Milus in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Smith has coached in the NFL since he debuted for the Houston Oilers in 1988 coaching special teams and tight ends. He found his niche as a linebackers coach in 1997 for the 49ers and has had three short stints as a defensive coordinator in Miami, Houston, and Atlanta.
  • ESPN’s Yates also tweeted out a report that the Bills have added former QB Kyle Shurmur on staff in a defensive quality control position. After four years at Vanderbilt, Shurmur signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chiefs, spending time on their practice squad as well as on the Bengals’ and Washington’s practice squads. He was released by Washington a little over a month ago and that appears to mark the end of his playing career. He seems to be following in the footsteps of his father, Pat Shurmur, and joining the coaching track.
  • A castaway from the Matt Nagy Bears’ staff, outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey will not be without work for long as Curtis Crabtree of NBC Sports reports that Shuey is joining Doug Pederson‘s staff in Jacksonville in the same role. Shuey and Pederson had two separate tenures together in Philadelphia.
  • Pederson also made a crucial move of retaining running backs coach Bernie Parmalee. Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network tells us that keeping Parmalee was a priority for Pederson, especially due to his strong relationship with star running back James Robinson.
  • Baltimore has hired Rob Leonard as outside linebackers coach, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley (Twitter). Leonard will replace Drew Wilkins who left to join Brian Daboll‘s staff in New York. Leonard spent the past three seasons in the same position with the Dolphins. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic adds that former Michigan analyst Ryan Osborn will follow Mike Macdonald to the Ravens for a quality control position. Osborn is credited with having a role in the development of Wolverines’ EDGE players like Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

Ravens Hire Mike Macdonald As Defensive Coordinator

Mike Macdonald is landing back in Baltimore after all. The Ravens announced that they’ve hired Macdonald as their new defensive coordinator.

We heard earlier this week that Macdonald was the favorite for the gig, but the team still went ahead and interviewed Joe Cullen and Mike Caldwell for the job. Ultimately, it sounds like the Ravens got their guy, and the 34-year-old will now return to Baltimore.

“Mike is one of us – a Raven through and through,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “During his initial seven seasons with us, it was evident that his leadership, intelligence and passion would earn him the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator in the NFL.

“Mike has continuously proven himself, including when he led one of the country’s best defenses at Michigan last year. He is a proven play-caller who knows our system well. He also fully understands the standard of playing defense in Baltimore.”

Prior to joining Jim Harbaugh‘s Wolverines staff last year, Macdonald was viewed as Don Martindale’s heir apparent in Baltimore. He had previously worked with the Ravens from 2014-20, moving up from the intern level to linebackers coach by the end of his first stint with the team. Also spending time working with Baltimore’s defensive backs, Macdonald gained extensive experience with the team ahead of his move to the college ranks.

Michigan’s performance certainly helped the young assistant’s cause. Sparked by potential No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson‘s Heisman Trophy bid, the Wolverines ranked as a top-10 defense in 2021 — a year after ranking 95th in points allowed. Should Macdonald, 34, land the job, he would become the youngest DC in Ravens history.

A number of names were connected to the vacancy. In addition to Macdonald, Cullen, and Caldwell, we heard D-line coach Anthony Weaver and external options like Kris Richard and Joe Whitt Jr. tossed around as candidates.

Ravens To Interview Jags’ Joe Cullen, Bucs’ Mike Caldwell For DC Job

Reports of Mike Macdonald‘s quick return to Baltimore may be slightly premature. The Ravens are not done discussing their defensive coordinator position, and Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen is next in line to interview.

Cullen, a Ravens defensive staffer before joining Urban Meyer‘s staff, will meet with John Harbaugh about the DC job, Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun tweets. While Macdonald was reported to be finalizing a deal, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec pushes back on that a bit, indicating that while the Michigan DC is perceived to be the top candidate, this process is not finished (Twitter link). Cullen will meet with the Ravens on Thursday, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets.

Like Macdonald, Cullen spent several seasons in Baltimore, serving as the team’s defensive line coach from 2016-20. Jacksonville endured another dreadful season, but Cullen’s defense had moments — particularly in the team’s upset win over the Bills and Week 18 victory over the Colts — during the Jags’ 3-14 season. Cullen, 54, has been an NFL assistant for the past 12 seasons. The 2021 slate was his first as a coordinator.

Buccaneers inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will interview for the job as well, Zrebiec tweets. The Todd Bowles lieutenant has been with the Bucs throughout Bruce Arians‘ tenure and was previously the Eagles’ linebackers coach during Andy Reid‘s final Philly seasons. An 11-year veteran linebacker, Caldwell also played on the first Ravens team in 1996.

The Ravens’ search to replace four-year DC Don Martindale has moved fast, with internal candidates (D-line coach Anthony Weaver), external options (Kris Richard, Joe Whitt Jr.) and former Baltimore staffers currently elsewhere (Cullen, Macdonald) coming up in the past few days.

Ravens Aiming To Bring Back Mike Macdonald For DC Job

The Ravens have been connected to some outside candidates to fill their defensive coordinator post, while also meeting with defensive line coach Anthony Weaver. An external candidate with a Baltimore history, however, appears set to fill Don Martindale‘s former post.

A year after leaving Baltimore to become Michigan’s defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald is squarely on the radar to take the same job with the Ravens. This process is moving fast, with the Detroit Free Press’ Michael Cohen reporting a deal is expected to be finalized within days.

Prior to joining Jim Harbaugh‘s Wolverines staff last year, Macdonald was viewed as the Martindale heir apparent in Baltimore. He had previously worked with the Ravens from 2014-20, moving up from the intern level to linebackers coach by the end of his first stint with the team. Also spending time working with Baltimore’s defensive backs, Macdonald gained extensive experience with the team ahead of his move to the college ranks.

Michigan’s performance certainly helped the young assistant’s cause. Sparked by potential No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson‘s Heisman Trophy bid, the Wolverines ranked as a top-10 defense in 2021 — a year after ranking 95th in points allowed. Should Macdonald, 34, land the job, he would become the youngest DC in Ravens history.

The Ravens also sought interviews with Saints DBs coach Kris Richard and Cowboys secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. Richard is also in the mix for the Steelers’ DC gig. While the franchise has never hired an outside coach to be its DC, Macdonald essentially checks that box in name only due to the bulk of his coaching experience coming with the team.

Latest On Ravens-Don Martindale Split

Don Martindale is surprisingly on the market for defensive coordinator-needy teams. Some outside interest already emerged before the Ravens moved on from their four-year defensive play-caller.

After signing a three-year extension in 2020, Martindale was set to go into a contract year. The Ravens did not offer him another extension to avoid lame-duck status, according to Albert Breer of SI.com, who adds other teams noticed this and checked on Martindale’s status. The Ravens’ defensive step back in 2021 contributed to the team passing on an extension offer (Twitter link).

The Ravens have promoted from within to fill their DC position every time the franchise has filled the job. Since Marvin Lewis‘ 2003 departure to become the Bengals’ HC, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan, Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano and Dean Pees climbed from within to fill the post. Martindale followed suit in 2018, rising from the team’s linebackers coach position. It is not a lock that will continue, though the external candidates on Baltimore’s radar have experience working under Martindale.

Mike Macdonald left the Ravens to become Michigan’s co-defensive coordinator last year, but Baltimore’s former linebackers coach was viewed as the likely Martindale successor before doing so, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com notes. Macdonald spent seven seasons on John Harbaugh‘s staff. Presumptive one-and-done Jaguars DC Joe Cullen, who was the Ravens’ D-line coach for five seasons before following Urban Meyer to Jacksonville, looms as another possible candidate. Internally, defensive passing-game coordinator Chris Hewitt is a surefire candidate, per Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network (on Twitter). Hewitt has been with the Ravens since 2012, when he took over as the team’s defensive backs coach.

Despite the Ravens’ injury-catalyzed regression on defense this season, Martindale figures to generate extensive outside interest. The 58-year-old assistant had Baltimore perched as a top-10 defense from 2018-20.

Coaching Notes: Steelers, Cowboys, Giants

The Steelers made a key staff change last week, promoting Matt Canada to replace offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. But the team will not part ways with DC Keith Butler. The longtime Pittsburgh coordinator agreed to terms on a one-year extension Wednesday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). Butler has overseen Pittsburgh’s defense since the franchise split with Dick LeBeau in 2015, and while Butler’s units as a whole have not measured up to his predecessor’s Super Bowl-winning crews, the Steelers have led the NFL in sacks in each of the past four seasons and have ranked in the top three in DVOA in each of the past two.

Here is the latest out on the Pittsburgh staff and other coaching groups around the league:

  • Although the Steelers are coming off another home playoff defeat, Mike Tomlin does not appear to have moved toward a hot seat. Steelers ownership is not believed to have any desire to move away from Tomlin, per The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette (subscription required). Tomlin had the Steelers at 11-0 this season and managed to have last year’s largely Ben Roethlisberger-less team at 8-8, leading to Coach of the Year consideration in both cases. However, the Steelers lost five of their final six games this year and have lost home playoff games three times since 2014. Tomlin is signed through the 2021 season.
  • The Giants became the second team in two years to call on Dave DeGuglielmo as a late replacement as an offensive line coach, but the arrangement looks to have been temporary. Like the Dolphins last year, the Giants will not look to retain DeGuglielmo for a second season. They are searching for a new O-line coach, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets. DeGuglielmo came to New York on an interim basis to replace Marc Colombo, whom Joe Judge fired this season.
  • The Panthers will turn to a legacy name to help out their offensive line. Carolina intends to hire Tony Sparano Jr. as assistant O-line coach, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The son of the late Tony Sparano, Sparano Jr. worked as the Jaguars’ assistant O-line coach for the past four seasons. Despite being 34, the second-generation coach has worked in the NFL since 2011.
  • Jim Harbaugh will poach one of his brother’s assistants. Ravens linebackers coach Mike MacDonald will become Michigan’s co-defensive coordinator, with Yahoo.com’s Pete Thamel reporting former Cowboys defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist will move to Ann Arbor, Mich., to share in that responsibility (Twitter link). Macdonald, 33, was with the Ravens for seven seasons — the past three as linebackers coach. Linguist has spent much of his career in the college ranks but was on Nolan’s staff in Dallas this season.
  • Another of Quinn’s Cowboys staffers became known Wednesday. The Cowboys hired Aden Durde as defensive line coach. Durde will follow Quinn from Atlanta, where he was most recently the Falcons’ outside linebackers coach. Durde, who spent time with the Cowboys as part of the Minority Fellowship Program from 2014-15, will join Joe Whitt Jr. in following Quinn from Atlanta to Dallas.
  • Arthur Smith‘s first Falcons staff will not include offensive line coach Chris Morgan, according to SI.com’s Albert Breer (on Twitter). Morgan worked with the Falcons for six years, initially serving under OC Kyle Shanahan. Given that offensive scheme’s presence in a few NFL cities, Morgan profiles as an interesting coaching free agent.

Ravens Promote Don Martindale To DC

The Ravens announced that they have promoted Don “Wink” Martindale to the role of defensive coordinator. In related moves, the team moved defensive backs coach Mike MacDonald to linebackers coach. Don Martindale (vertical)

Martindale takes over for Dean Pees, who retired at the end of the 2017 season. After six years on staff in Baltimore, he’s getting his chance to run the show in Baltimore. “Wink” previously served as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2010 and helped coach the team’s linebacker group to its full potential.

The 54-year-old (55 in May) has big shoes to fill. In his first year as Baltimore’s DC, Pees helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory over the 49ers. This past year, Pees’ group allowed the sixth-fewest points in the NFL and generated a league-high 34 takeaways.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Steelers, Ravens

Should the Browns‘ newly assembled power structure consult the team’s franchise player about a plan for the No. 1 overall pick, Joe Thomas would not use it on a quarterback. Going into his 11th year, the perennial All-Pro left tackle would rather see his team use the selection to bolster the pass rush.

I think you need to get a pass-rusher,” Thomas said on the Dan Patrick Show today (via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com). “… You gotta be careful reaching for a quarterback at No. 1 because if they fail, they don’t help your team at all. Whereas if you pick a defensive lineman and maybe they don’t live up to the hype, you can still find a place to get him on the field and to have an impact. We need guys that can come in and start and that can contribute.”

Thomas, who has two years left on his Browns deal and will turn 33 during the 2017 season, said in the past the Browns need to identify a franchise quarterback. There isn’t a better spot to do that than the No. 1 pick. But this quarterback class — fronted by Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Cleveland-area product Mitch Trubisky — has divided scouts. The Browns have been reportedly coveting Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett at No. 1 and considering a Watson pick at No. 12. But obviously, the versatile Clemson talent is no lock to be there when Cleveland’s second first-round window opens, given quarterback prospects’ rises as drafts near.

Here’s more from northeast Ohio and some other regions housing AFC North franchises.

  • Jamie Collinsfour-year, $50MM extension will pay $37.5MM in its first three years before containing no guaranteed money during the 2020 season, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald tweets. Collins will also receive a $5MM signing bonus as part of the deal (per Howe, on Twitter) which includes $26.5MM guaranteed.
  • Negotiations between the Ravens and UFA nose tackle Brandon Williams have not yet begun but are expected to commence before he hits the market, Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun notes. Even before Zach Orr‘s retirement, Williams was set to be the top priority, per Preston, for a Ravens team that’s lost numerous talents in free agency in recent years. It’s a big year for free agent defensive tackles, with Dontari Poe and Kawann Short residing as impending UFAs.
  • The Ravens tied up some loose ends on their coaching staff today, per the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zreibec (on Twitter). Chris Hewitt will take over new Bills DC Leslie Frazier‘s position as secondary coach, and Mike MacDonald will assist him, Zreibec tweets. Craig Ver Steeg, a nine-year Ravens offensive assistant, will coach quarterbacks, will slide over from skill-position assistance to helping QBs coach/OC Marty Mornhinweg with the signal-callers, Zreibec notes (on Twitter). Drew Wilkins will serve as the assistant defensive line coach. Each of these staffers’ assignment changes represents an internal promotion.
  • The Steelers could determine another year with Ladarius Green is too risky, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Green will enter his sixth season after experiencing a disastrous fifth, playing in just six games. However, he averaged 50.7 yards per game and made several big plays when healthy. But concussion issues dogged Green to the point Mike Tomlin said a decision needs to be made about the tight end. “I don’t have an assessment, long-term, of where he is,” Tomlin said. “I think that’s one of the chief medical decisions and questions that we have to have moving forward, in terms of guys getting an assessment of their overall health and what it means for 2017.” A Green cut will cost the Steelers $3.56MM in dead money while saving the team barely $2MM. Green said earlier this week he does not intend to retire.
  • Antonio Brown‘s constant desire for targets has rubbed many teammates the wrong way, but his occasionally selfish ways aren’t viewed as detrimental to the team, Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette writes. Ben Roethlisberger has told the All-Pro wideout to “shut up” multiple times on the field, and since-retired tight end Heath Miller told Brown to “stop complaining about not getting the ball” at a 2015 practice. However, Dulac notes Brown not a problem in the locker room. This could be a key point as Brown’s payday looms.