Dave Boling: Hiring of Mike Macdonald shows Seahawks will lean on familiar team-first strategy, with a mix of new-school innovation

Feb. 1—RENTON, Wash. — Whether it turns out folly or genius, the hiring of Mike Macdonald as Seahawks head coach is John Schneider's biggest gamble. High stakes, at that.

The hiring, which replaces revered and beloved Pete Carroll, has been hailed as a victory by many NFL observers. Despite his youth (36) and scant resume, Macdonald is considered a prodigy among those whose job it is to devise ways to prevent 21st century offenses from scoring touchdowns.

But he's never been a head coach. At any level. And based on track record, he's the least qualified head coaching hire the Seahawks have made.

Through generations, the likes of Chuck Knox, Tom Flores, Dennis Erickson, Mike Holmgren and Pete Carroll have come to Seattle with backgrounds featuring Super Bowl titles, NCAA national championships and long strings of success at the highest levels.

In contrast, Macdonald has been defensive coordinator at Baltimore for two seasons.

Here's the point: This is the new NFL. Those other guys, with all the experience and success, were the old NFL.

Knox rarely changed his offense. Carroll rarely changed his defense. And when the game changed, they didn't always keep up. Hey, when you're conditioned to success, you stick with what always worked before.

In the new NFL, one-third of the coaches are 41 years or younger.

Sean McVay won a Super Bowl with the Rams at age 36. Kyle Shanahan took the Niners to a Super Bowl at 40.

They're the new paradigm. They're about innovation, creativity and imagination. Their schemes are unpredictable and adaptable.

When asked what he most appreciates about Macdonald, Schneider said that he is "a disrupter." He designs defenses to keep opponents from doing what they want to.

Macdonald was introduced Thursday at the team's headquarters.

First impressions: He is authentic, comfortable being himself. He gave no sense of being in over his head. He made no promises nor grand pronouncements, talking more about the daily process than the route for future Super Bowl parades.

He might have come off a little dry, but promised he has a sense of humor. This just wasn't the time for it.

Schneider said Macdonald came into clarity on his radar after the Hawks lost 37-3 to the Ravens this season. A number of stunned Seahawks offensive players, he said, came away asking: "What the heck was that?"

If you can't beat them, hire them, is a time-tested approach in the NFL.

Some points to consider:

—The Ravens this year unofficially won the NFC West, defeating Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona. He will have different talents in Seattle, but he brings an understanding of what it takes to stop the opponents he will see six times every year.

Macdonald's defense led the NFL in yards and scoring, limiting teams to 16.3 points a game. They also led the league in sacks and takeaways.

—Four Ravens defenders were first- or second-team All Pro. Of more direct relevance to the Seahawks, Macdonald's defense energized and maximized the skills of pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who matched a career high 9.5 sacks after having recorded just three while playing for the Seahawks in 2019.

—The Ravens are a first-rate NFL organization, top to bottom. Rising to coordinator in such quick order speaks of how much Macdonald's abilities were appreciated.

Given the full auditorium and number of questions, Macdonald didn't elaborate much on any specific answers, but gave glimpses of who he is and what drives him.

He thanked his parents, always grounding, and said the lessons of his father were "the value of integrity, humility and determination."

He didn't fall into the trap of defining his defensive scheme, knowing that his game plans will have to be shaped to fit the skills of the players he finds here and the varied challenges opponents offer every game. The goal being to "put yourself in the position to win the down."

This view captures football success with a macro lens. Don't talk about winning championships — better to focus on winning the down you're playing at the moment.

Carroll's legendary defenses steamrolled opponents with great players doing simple things in predictable schemes. Last season, Seattle didn't stop much of anything.

In contrast: When Macdonald was asked about his complex schemes. "Offenses are too good to just run three defenses and think you can beat them," he said.

That reality explains why he was sitting at the dais as the new head coach for the Seahawks.

Macdonald would have no way to know this, but one answer he gave Thursday was eerily similar to one that the young John Schneider gave at his introductory news conference here in 2010.

Schneider was entering his first job as a GM and was asked of his experience with the Green Bay Packers, and if there was any specific player he identified as the product of his own insight.

"We don't do that," Schneider said, rejecting the notion of taking credit for something that was, ideally, a collective effort.

That answer told us a great deal about who Schneider was and how he would operate. No ego, share the credit, win as a team. It's worked for 14 years.

Likewise, when Macdonald was asked about his rapid rise up the ranks, he said he was "uncomfortable" with that image. Rising quickly, he said, "isn't really the goal," which is, instead, doing the job the best you can every day.

"I think that's the mentality you have to have ... there's no way it can be about just you."

No incoming coach, regardless of championships or experience, could have more accurately pinpointed the secret to long-term NFL success.

At first glimpse, yeah, this guy gets it.