The Seattle Seahawks’ head coach search has a noticeable absence from the reported list: Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
At the moment, Macdonald is busy with the Ravens’ AFC Championship preparations, but he has been interviewed by the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, and Tennessee Titans, all of whom similarly failed to reach the postseason.
What gives? Are the Seahawks not interested in the man in charge of the NFL’s best defense?
Well, maybe they aren’t, but timing is everything. The Falcons fired Arthur Smith only a few hours after their regular season finale, the Chargers had already canned Brandon Staley midseason, likewise the Panthers with Frank Reich, and Mike Vrabel was ousted on Tuesday, January 9. Pete Carroll was relieved of his head coaching duties on Wednesday, January 10. Keep that date in mind.
The Athletic has a detailed breakdown of the recently modified rules for NFL head coaching interviews. Here’s one of the key regulations for teams on a bye week, which is what the Baltimore Ravens earned as the AFC’s top seed:
If the employer team has a bye in the wild-card round, virtual interviews may begin three days after Week 18 games (Jan. 9 or 10, whichever is applicable) and must happen before the end of wild-card games.
The Ravens had a Saturday Week 18 game, so the process for interviews for Macdonald opened the day before Carroll was formally unseated as coach.
Seattle didn’t begin its interview process until Wednesday, January 17. Teams cannot interview assistants from No. 1 seeds during the week of the Divisional Round, so the Seahawks couldn’t speak with Macdonald.
If Baltimore reaches the Super Bowl, there would be another bye week. Good time to finally get that Macdonald interview, right? Nope.
Teams cannot hold initial interviews with candidates employed by teams participating in the AFC and NFC championship games until the end of the employer team’s season. Second interviews are not allowed until Jan. 29. A candidate’s employer team may not voluntarily grant permission for those interviews.
So if you are absolutely in need of Macdonald interviewing and getting that Seahawks job, the Ravens need to lose this Sunday. Otherwise, no contact until after the Super Bowl.
Given how long it took for the Seahawks to conduct interviews, they could’ve parted ways with Pete five minutes after the Arizona Cardinals game and not much would’ve changed. Of the eight candidates with at least one interview, half of them come from non-playoff teams.
The simplest answer to the Seahawks’ lack of contact with Mike Macdonald is timing. Their only window to interview Macdonald was the wild-card round, and now it’s a waiting game to see how the rest of Baltimore’s season unfolds.