RENTON — It was a defensive-centric head coach that brought the Seattle Seahawks their only Super Bowl title.
The Seahawks are hoping a newer — albeit much younger — version can return them to the elite of the NFL after hiring Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald as their new head coach on Wednesday.
Macdonald, 36, arrives in Seattle as the youngest head coach in the league and half the age of the man he’s replacing — Pete Carroll who was let go after 14 seasons in charge during the most successful run in franchise history.
Macdonald spent the past two years running Baltimore’s defense, including this past season when the Ravens finished with the NFL’s best regular-season record and reached the AFC championship game before losing to Kansas City.
This will be the first head coaching position at any level for Macdonald. But he’s been surrounded by successful coaches as he moved up the ranks, starting with an extended run on the staff of John Harbaugh in Baltimore before spending a season on now-Chargers’ coach Jim Harbaugh’s staff in college at Michigan.
Seattle made it clear that Macdonald was one of its top candidates when it didn’t move forward on a hire prior to the conference championship games. Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn seemed a clear front-runner because of his past connections to Seattle. But the longer the Seahawks went without moving ahead with Quinn, the more it became obvious there were other options being considered.
Macdonald and Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson were the last two interviewed by the Seahawks before the final decision was made.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun, we’re going to work our tails off, and it’s going to be an incredible ride,” Macdonald told the team’s website. “We’re going to be here for a long time, and we’re going to win a lot of football games.”
One of the unknowns will be how Macdonald meshes with an organization that was shaped around Carroll’s philosophy for more than a decade. Seattle general manager John Schneider said one of the mandates from owner/chair Jody Allen was to keep a level of Carroll’s culture in place. How Macdonald manages that will be one of the questions.
Macdonald, a Georgia graduate who began his coaching career there from 2011-13, broke into the NFL with the Ravens as a coaching intern in 2014. He moved up to defensive assistant, defensive backs coach and linebackers coach through 2020 before going to Michigan to run Jim Harbaugh’s defense.
After returning to Baltimore, Macdonald had one of the top scoring defenses in the league over the past two seasons. This past season, the Ravens ranked sixth in total defense playing an aggressive style that should please Seahawks’ fans who grew frustrated by Seattle’s defensive regression from the prime seasons when Carroll was in charge.
That’ll be part of Macdonald’s overall task in Seattle after the franchise had grown stagnant. Carroll was the most successful coach in franchise history and brought Seattle its only Super Bowl title 10 years ago. But the latter stages of his tenure in Seattle fell flat.
The Seahawks missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons in 2023 and finished 9-8 for a second straight year. Seattle has not won a playoff game since 2019 and hasn’t advanced past the divisional round since the 2014 playoffs.
This past season was when Seattle expected to close the gap with San Francisco in the NFC West, but instead watched as the 49ers continued to dominate the division while the Rams quickly rebuilt themselves into being a playoff team.
Having Macdonald in charge should help improve a Seattle defense that ranked near the bottom of the NFL in most defensive categories. This past season, the Ravens became the first team since 1970 to lead the league in fewest points allowed, most sacks and most takeaways. And he’ll have talent to use with the likes of Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen, Julian Love, Dre’Mont Jones, Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe all locked up for a couple of more seasons.
But just as important for Macdonald will be identifying a creative offensive coordinator who can draw more out of what Seattle already has with quarterback Geno Smith, wide receivers DK Metcalf and Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running backs Zach Charbonnet and Kenneth Walker III.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed.