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Both of Ravens’ coordinators could be head coaches next season

The 2023 Philadelphia Eagles had the unenviable task of replacing both their offensive and defensive coordinators following a trip to the Super Bowl. The results, it turned out − judging by their wild-card round exit earlier this month − were less than ideal.

Predicting a similar trajectory for any other team that might lose both coordinators − for good reasons − is foolish. But the 2024 Baltimore Ravens could find themselves in a similar starting position Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni had to navigate last offseason.

Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is the ‘it’ young coach on the defensive side of the ball this cycle. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken has taken the offense to heights previously unseen with Lamar Jackson at quarterback.

Both Monken and Macdonald have completed virtual interviews with interested teams over the two weeks of the postseason. And as they prepare their units for the AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, their calls to become NFL head coaches could be on the horizon.

Mike Macdonald: Defensive ‘mad scientist’

Macdonald, 36, has spent nearly his entire coaching career with the Ravens. He started as an intern in 2014 and worked his way up the ranks − defensive assistant (2015-16), defensive backs coach (2017) and linebackers coach (2018-2020).

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A young Macdonald had all of the traits expected − eager, smart, motivated − of a hard-working young coach, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said.

‘He just got to it and worked hard at it and kind of came up through the system,’ Harbaugh said. ‘And then, with this particular defensive system, he’s probably been blessed with the opportunity to grow with the same system, and then the evolution of the system over the course of the last − what, nine, 10 years − he’s been right in the middle of all that.’

In 2021, Macdonald went to work for a different Harbaugh − Jim, at the University of Michigan, as defensive coordinator. It was a one-year stint, as John, the elder brother, wanted Macdonald back − this time as his own defensive coordinator.

‘What you see is he’s just got a really good feel for it,’ Harbaugh said. ‘He’s got a feel for the game itself, but he’s also got a great feel for applying the principles that he’s been a part of developing.’

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy won two Super Bowls playing for the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick. He was asked if there were any similarities between their approach and how they see the game − accounting for the fact Belichick has won six Super Bowls as a head coach and two more as a defensive coordinator. They are similar in their intentionality and attention to detail, Van Noy said.

‘Mike has done a really good job with the group we have,’ Van Noy said. ‘I mean, we’ve had – in the regular season – career years at numerous spots.’

Macdonald was requested for initial interviews with five teams: the Washington Commanders, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers.

Without any serious star power − inside linebacker Roquan Smith and safety Kyle Hamilton were All-Pro selections while defensive end Justin Madubuike had a career year − on defense, the Ravens enjoyed one of the most prosperous seasons on that side of the ball in team history. They led the league in scoring defense (16.5 points per game) and were tied for first in takeaways (31). Sacks, Macdonald said in the middle of the year, were an overrated stat. He probably doesn’t hate that Baltimore was tops in the league in that category, too, with 60.

The Ravens are the fifth team cornerback Arthur Maulet has played for. He hasn’t been around many coaches with minds like Macdonald, he said.

‘Mike is a mad scientist, bro,’ Maulet told USA TODAY Sports. ‘He’s always in the lab. Never not watching film. I respect him a lot.’

Todd Monken: Light, loose – and direct

Monken, 57, had experience as a NFL coordinator for four seasons (2016-18 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2019 with the Cleveland Browns). Harbaugh brought him back to the NFL after three seasons at the University of Georgia. With the Bulldogs, Monken won back-to-back College Football Playoff titles.

‘He’s very passionate. He cares a lot about what he does and how things look,’ fullback Patrick Ricard told USA TODAY Sports.

As a head coach, Monken would hold players accountable to a high standard, Ricard said.

‘And if it don’t look right, he’ll let you know right away,’ he said.

The Ravens adjustment from Greg Roman’s run-first scheme to Monken’s spread, passing-inclined attack took little time. Jackson enjoyed his best season as a passer. Yet no team ran the ball at a higher rate. Baltimore was the most balanced team in the league by pass-run rate. The Ravens were fourth in points per game (28.4) and tied for third in yards per play (5.9) during the regular season.

‘I think it’s a real credit to Todd and what he’s done,’ NFL analyst Brian Baldinger told USA TODAY Sports.

Monken has fewer suitors this hiring cycle compared to Macdonald. The Chargers and Panthers sought interviews with him.

‘Just a great leader. Keeps it light. Keeps it loose,’ Ricard said. ‘He knows what’s important and what’s not important to harp on. He’s a great coach to play for.’

An example of Monken’s levity as a coach came when the Ravens blew out the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 31 to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC. He left his customary place in the coaches’ booth upstairs to join the party happening on the sidelines in the final minutes of the game − and caught the players by surprise.

‘I was like, ‘This man is funny,” Jackson said after the game.

Could the funny man and his fellow coordinator have teams of their own in the near future?

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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