Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has held his position for 15 years. Former defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale had been with Harbaugh since 2012— initially, as a linebackers’ coach then, as the defensive coordinator.
Change is inevitable in the National Football League (NFL). That theory was proven when Harbaugh and Martindale decided to part ways, which opened the door for new defensive coordinator Mike McDonald to take over as the head of the defense.
Harbaugh and the Ravens introduced Macdonald recently. Macdonald re-joins the Ravens after spending last season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator.
“This is somebody that we know that’s been with us for many years through many battles, trials and tribulations and some great moments,” Harbaugh said. “I consider Mike to be family, part of the family [and] part of the Ravens family. You guys all know him. That’s the biggest thing. So, he’s a great coach [and a] better person. I feel like we’re very blessed to have him here. He had opportunities from a lot of various directions this season after what he accomplished here and then at Michigan this year. So, we’re very fortunate and very blessed to have him to have chosen the Ravens.”
Harbaugh cited Macdonald’s roots having grown up as a part of the organization and his contributions towards the Ravens re-establishing a presence as a defensive organization. He also commended Macdonald for leaving what was a comfortable situation in Baltimore to take on a new challenge of being the defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan, which coincidentally is coached by his younger brother Jim Harbaugh.
“This is home for me and my family, so when the opportunity did come about, it was really one of the easiest decisions we’ve ever made,” Macdonald said. “Like John said, I really do believe that I understand the standard of what it takes to ‘Play Like A Raven.’ I’ve been a part of this culture. This culture has helped mold me, and I’ve grown up in this culture. It’s one that I don’t take that lightly, and I really respect. It’s not easy to get. It’s not easy to build something that we’ve been able to build here. So, I look forward to building upon it. It’s a great challenge.”
Prior to his time with Michigan, Macdonald spent seven seasons (2014-20) in Baltimore, serving most recently as the linebackers’ coach from 2018-20. During his time with the Ravens, he also coached the defensive backs (2017), was a defensive assistant (2015-16) and worked his first year (2014) as a defensive coaching intern.
Macdonald said he wants a cohesive unit that is flexible and adaptive. He’ll have valuable pieces for the defense coming back from injury such as starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey coming back from injury.
While at Michigan, Macdonald helped turn around the defense and played a key role in the team making it to the college football playoffs. Michigan’s defense is ranked 20th in the nation in touchdowns allowed (28).
Now Macdonald will be charged with the responsibility to jumpstart the Ravens defense. Although Martindale has moved on to be the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, Baltimore’s defense will have some similarities with Macdonald calling the shots.
“There’s a lot of carryover from ‘Wink’ [former Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale], because we were together— like how [head coach] John [Harbaugh] describes— when we tried to build it in 2018. So, we see a lot of things the same. One thing that’s definitely going to carry over that ‘Wink’ did that I learned that I used at Michigan was over communicating the situations with the players,” Macdonald said.
The Ravens failed to make a postseason appearance for the first time since 2018. The organization is built upon a defensive mantle. If they intend to make a return to the postseason, Macdonald’s defense has to be a major contributor.