Prayers answered, Seahawks welcome head coach Mike Macdonald

League: NFL

Posted on: 01 Feb, 2024 at 08:52 PM

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Forgive Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider for the confession that he was in church praying for the Baltimore Ravens to lose in the AFC Championship Game.

But it was the only result that could have made introducing Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald as Seattle's new coach on Thursday a reality.

Schneider interviewed Macdonald and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson after their respective teams lost on Sunday, falling one win shy of the Super Bowl. With ownership blessing his decision, Schneider helped shift Macdonald's mood and offered the 36-year-old a six-year contract in a "leap of faith" change of direction from 72-year-old Pete Carroll.

"This is a humbling, humbling feeling that I'm feeling right now in front of everybody," Macdonald said. "I understand where this organization wants to go. And I feel like we're aligned on how we want to get there. and just juiced to go do it."

Macdonald's meteoric rise in coaching ranks largely was a prolonged climb up the ladder in Baltimore, where he spent nine of the past 10 seasons with a one-year hiatus serving as Jim Harbaugh's defensive coordinator at Michigan. He built the Ravens' defense into the top-ranked unit in the NFL this season and brings a feather in his cap of demoralizing rival San Francisco in December. He also interviewed in January to be head coach of the Washington Commanders, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans.

The Chiefs scored 17 points to beat the Ravens in the AFC title game, and not many did better against Macdonald this season. His defense became the first to lead the league in points allowed per game (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31) in 2023.

Macdonald plans to continue as the primary defensive playcaller while tackling head-coaching duties for the first time 14 years after being hired as a graduate assistant at the University of Georgia. He described the sense of knowing it was the right fit with Seattle and Schneider during their first interview in Baltimore last month. Schneider said he had the same first impression, but was muted by NFL rules prohibiting further talks with assistant coaches whose teams were still playing.

"He crushed it, we flew back here and it was on," Schneider said. "It was natural -- easy and clear.

"Mike is a learning networker, not a climbing networker. When you sit down with him, you know why."

Macdonald said he plans to hire a coordinator and playcaller on the other side of the ball who will install a "physical and explosive" brand of offense, with candidates already in queue.

"We're not sure what we're good at yet," Macdonald said.

Seattle is projected $4 million over the salary cap entering free agency and has significant decisions to make. One involves quarterback Geno Smith, who turned in a wretched performance -- 13 of 28, four sacks, one interception -- in a 37-3 loss to the Ravens this season. Schneider revealed Thursday that game was one of two instances that left him saying "We'll never look like this again."

Schneider has credited Smith with helping the Seahawks rebound quickly from trading Russell Wilson, and echoed the importance of maintaining the positive culture Carroll helped instill over 14 seasons that included two Super Bowl appearances and one Lombardi Trophy. And releasing Smith comes with a cap hit over $30 million for 2024.

"We want to keep our positive culture," Schneider said. "Everything that's been created here, everything in this building. There are so many special people in this building. It's amazing to be on the phone with all of these agents and people that are interested in this position, and to be able to explain to them like, 'Hey. There's a foundation here and it's incredible.'"

--Field Level Media