On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones published the outlet’s “NFL 40 under 40” list, which highlights some of the NFL’s top coaches, executives, agents and other personnel who are younger than 40 years old.
Some of the most unsurprising names to appear on the list include head coaches like Sean McVay and Zac Taylor, who guided their teams to the Super Bowl in 2021, Brandon Staley, Kevin O’Connor and Mike McDaniel. There are a number of assistant coaches and coordinators recognized as well, including a familiar names to Baltimore Ravens’ fans.
Jones named Mike Macdonald, the Ravens’ new defensive coordinator, among the top young assistant coaches. At 35 years old, Macdonald is one of the younger individuals and coaches on the list.
“Macdonald spent seven years as an assistant coach on John Harbaugh’s Ravens staff before becoming Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan for the 2021 season,” Jones wrote. “The Wolverines improved from No. 84 in total defense in 2020 to No. 14 under Macdonald’s leadership and advanced to the College Football Playoff semifinals.”
Jones also noted Macdonald’s tutelage over Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft who finished as a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2021. Hutchinson has previously touted Macdonald becoming Michigan’s defensive coordinator as a driving reason for his breakout campaign last season.
“When Don Martindale left the Ravens, Macdonald rejoined the team. He’s overseeing a talented defense that includes veterans such as defensive lineman Calais Campbell and cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and rising stars like outside linebacker Odafe Oweh and rookie safety Kyle Hamilton,” Jones added.
It’s hard to believe Macdonald is still in his mid-30s given his long tenure with the Ravens; he joined John Harbaugh’s staff as an assistant coach when he was still in his late-20s. He was groomed to one day take over a larger role in the Ravens’ coaching ranks and after a brief one-year stint at the college level, that opportunity arrived this offseason.
Macdonald is not the only Ravens’ personnel member to appear on this list. though. Also touted is David McDonald, the team’s director of research and development. Similarly 35 years old, McDonald flies more under the radar but occupies a big role for the Ravens.
“Few teams have been as innovative and aggressive in applying technology and analytics to all aspects of their football operations as the Ravens,” Jones wrote. “McDonald . . . has built a staff of analysts in Baltimore who perform a variety of tasks . . . their work has included fully digitizing the team’s draft board to developing ways to use player tracking data to better inform football decisions.”
As Jones notes, the Ravens been at the forefront of the so-called “analytics movement” across the NFL in recent years. McDonald has been a driving force behind that and is a key member of Eric DeCosta’s front office. He’s the only front office staffer on the list to hold the title of research and development director, which speaks to the uniqueness of the position.
Possible snubs — other Ravens’ coaches under 40 years old who did not make this list — include Chris Horton and Zachary Orr.
Horton has been a special teams’ coach on the Ravens staff since 2014; in 2018 he officially took over as special teams coordinator. The team’s special teams group has continued to be one of the league’s best under his guidance, and he could be a name whose up for some larger coaching roles in the coming future as he gains more experience.
Orr re-joined the Ravens this offseason as the inside linebackers coach, after previously serving as a defensive assistant and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ outside linebackers coach in 2021. He has the potential to become a rising star in the coaching ranks.