Mike Macdonald 'humbled' and 'juiced' for opportunity to coach Seahawks

RENTON, WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 01: John Schneider, general manager of the Seattle Seahawks, poses with Mike Macdonald as Macdonald is announced as the new Seattle Seahawks head coach at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on February 01, 2024 in Renton, Wa

Seahawks general manager John Schneider was openly rooting against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship last weekend in hopes that a loss would allow him to finally interview one of his top candidates to take over as head coach in Seattle.

And once Schneider finally got the chance to speak with Mike Macdonald on Tuesday in Baltimore, it became clear quickly that the Seahawks had their guy.

"Just so excited for everybody because this is the future right here. This is where it's going. And I think you're going to learn in getting to know Mike that he's a special dude," Schneider said in a press conference announcing the hire on Thursday.

Macdonald, 36, and his wife, Stephanie, arrived in Seattle on Wednesday afternoon as he signed on to become the ninth head coach in franchise history.

"This is a humbling, humbling feeling that I'm feeling right now in front of everybody, especially everybody in the organization in the back. This is pretty cool," Macdonald said. "It feels like we're in this thing together, you know, and this is a responsibility that my wife and I, we take extremely seriously."

Macdonald is now the youngest head coach in the NFL and just the second first-time head coach in franchise history. But despite his age, Macdonald's coaching resume carries plenty of quality. Macdonald is a finalist for the NFL's Assistant Coach of the Year award for directing a dominant Ravens defense that became the first unit in the NFL since 1970 to lead the league in points, turnovers (tied with the New York Giants) and sacks.

The 37-3 romp that the Ravens delivered to the Seahawks in November left an indelible impression on Schneider, too.

"I've had two really strong feelings (after games), leaving Pittsburgh several years ago (after a 24-0 loss), like 'we will never, ever look like that again.' I think it might have been our first year or second year here (2011), I can't remember. It was not cool. And leaving Baltimore this year, and that was not cool," Schneider said.

The Seahawks managed just 151 total yards and three points, which were their lowest outputs of the season. Seattle gained just 28 yards on the ground, converted just one third down in 12 opportunities, and turned the ball over twice on a fumble and interception from quarterback Geno Smith.

"There's a feeling that we all were there and felt it, but in talking to the players, several of the offensive players were like, ‘What was that?’ What just happened?" Schneider said of that game. "I tried to pick the players' brains here and there throughout the season, and that totally stood out."

Due to the structure of the NFL interview windows for teams in the playoffs, the Seahawks were unable to speak with Macdonald until the Ravens were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday. After a stop in Detroit to interview Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson on Monday night, the Seahawks contingent flew to Baltimore to meet with Macdonald for the first time on Tuesday.

Schneider and his staff returned to Seattle on Tuesday night with Macdonald as their focus.

"He crushed it," Schneider said.

Schneider and his wife, Traci, picked up the Macdonalds from the airport on Wednesday and brought them to the team's headquarters, where Macdonald signed a reported six-year deal to become head coach.

"This is a special city and this is a great football city, man, and we got the best fans in the world," 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 I'm just juiced to go do it. 

"And there's going to be no secret thing of, you know, scheme or secret plays that are going to get us there faster. It's going to take a lot of hard work by finding the right people and doing it the right way, treating people the right way, building everybody up throughout the building. I want everybody to feel like they're a part of this mission. And it's going to take all we got, one day at a time. And it's that simple. It's one conversation at a time, it's one relationship at a time."

Macdonald will be tasked with fixing a Seahawks defense that has plummeted in effectiveness in recent seasons. Seattle finished the 2023 season 30th in total defense (371.4 yards per game), 31st in rushing defense (138.4 yards per game), 22nd in points allowed (23.6 points per game), 30th in third down conversion rate (46.3 percent) and dead last in first downs allowed (22.4 first downs per game).

Macdonald said he intends to call plays for the defense while serving as head coach, but he also said he's willing to pass that responsibility off to the right defensive coordinator.

"Ultimately, I'm the head coach of the football team, so I want to coach the football team," Macdonald said. "And right now, the best way that we can win, in my opinion, is for me to call the plays. And then when it becomes obvious that someone else is ready to go and we see it the same way, then we'll make that change."

A big plus for Macdonald was Baltimore’s success in stopping offenses from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree. The Ravens defense delivered standout performances in slowing down Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers (19 points, 429 yards, five turnovers), Mike McDaniel’s Miami Dolphins (19 points, 375 yards, three turnovers), and Bobby Slowik’s Houston Texans (nine points, 268 yards, one turnover in Week 1; 10 points, 213 yards, no turnovers in playoffs). With Seattle facing the 49ers and Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams twice a season in the NFC West – all of which run variations of the same offensive philosophy – Macdonald’s success against those units in 2023 was appealing.

"He's a disruptor. He's changed it. You look at their product, you look at their defense," Schneider said of Macdonald's defense.

Macdonald said his scheme has built upon years of development within the Ravens organization on framework principles from defenses run by Rex Ryan and Jim Johnson. He then added in some college principles he absorbed during his one season as defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan before returning to the Ravens as their defensive coordinator in 2022. However, Macdonald said that it's something that has to constantly evolve due to the personnel you have.

"We took it a certain direction given the players we had," Macdonald said. "I'd say it's adaptable, but we're always going to be aggressive on how we want to do it. People ask about our blitz rates and all that; that's not important to me. It's about putting yourselves in positions to win the down, affecting the quarterback, putting your guys in position to have success."

Macdonald's reputation is that of a person that is really good at connecting with people. That's also one of the hallmarks of what Pete Carroll did so successfully throughout his career. While Macdonald isn't the same personality as Carroll – and hasn't even met the former Seahawks head coach – the ability to connect with players in your own way in something Macdonald fully believes in.

"Pete has a great personality, but it's his, and it's authentic to who he is as a person," Macdonald said. "I think that's why the players resonate with him and why he has such a great reputation, and his track record is what it is. I have a different personality, and you'll get to know me, but my plan is to be myself every day. You're just going to get me. It's not a facade. There are no altered agendas or anything like that. It's all about what's the best interest for the team, what's the best interest for the players, and how we can be successful. There's a sense of humor in there, I promise. Some people like it more than others. But it'll come out. If you're trying to be somebody that you're not, one, it's exhausting, and two, people see right through it."