Patience is a virtue. The Seattle Seahawks twiddled their thumbs and bided their time, waiting for the postseason to end to hire their top target: Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
Seattle was one of the last teams to fill its vacancy, but at the end of the day, the Seahawks ended up with arguably the top candidate in this year’s crop of new head coaches. Time will tell if Macdonald can replicate the success Pete Carroll had as the head coach for 14 seasons, but his profile should have fans of the team excited, particularly for a franchise that routinely plays some of the top offensive minds in the NFL.
Expecting Macdonald to come in and reproduce the 2023 Ravens defense wouldn’t be fair to him or the players Seattle currently has on its roster, but there are some pieces that should fit well with what Macdonald ran. Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton developed into one of the best defensive backs in the league under Macdonald’s tutelage, becoming one of the most feared slot defenders in football. This isn’t a one-for-one comparison, but cornerback Devon Witherspoon can play the blitzing role in similar fashion as Hamilton. According to Sports Info Solutions, Hamilton rushed the passer 34 times in the regular season to Witherspoon’s 28. Both players finished the season with three sacks. If Macdonald wants to continue to have that as a weapon in his defense, Witherspoon is well-versed in what it takes to be a successful player in the slot.
There are other Seahawks defensive players with upside like cornerback Tariq Woolen, edge rushers Boye Mafe and Derick Hall and a big-ticket free agent from last year in defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones. Even though the Seahawks have some talented players on the defensive roster, they didn’t exactly perform well as a defensive unit. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the Seahawks ranked 27th in expected points allowed per dropback (0.01) and 31st in expected points allowed per rushing attempt (0.01). This was one of the worst defenses in football, so it's time to figure out how much of that was personnel based or scheme and coaching based. If Macdonald is as sharp as he appears, the Seahawks should see a big jump in their defensive numbers.
Getting the defensive side of the ball moving in the right direction again matters a ton in a division featuring Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan as regular foes Seattle has to face four times a season. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are going to be able to score as long as those two are in charge of their respective teams. Hiring one of the top defensive minds in football makes sense as a counterpunch.
The Seahawks went 0-4 in the 2023 season against the Rams and 49ers largely because they couldn’t play defense and get off the field. In only one of those games did they hold the opponent under 28 points, a 17-16 loss in Week 11 to the Rams.
If Macdonald can be a major boost to the Seahawks' defense, Seattle should find itself in a spot where it can make the playoffs next season. The offense should be ready to go, especially if Macdonald nails his offensive coordinator hire. Geno Smith is a quality quarterback who still continues to be a net-positive for the Seahawks, their wide receiver trio is dangerous and they have youth that’s continuing to grow at running back and offensive line. It’s easy to see why this spot was appealing for a first-time head coach. A veteran quarterback and passing game will allow Macdonald to do what he does best: focus on the defense.
On paper, the Seahawks nailed this hire. They’ll still have to go through the draft and free agency as they mold what the team will look like, but it appears that waiting for the Ravens to finish their season got Seattle the perfect man for the job.