MIKE SALK

Salk: The 7 words that stick out with new Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald

Feb 1, 2024, 10:09 PM

Seattle Seahawks Mike Macdonald...

Mike Macdonald as speaks to the media as he is named the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 1, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It has been a long time since the main stage in the Seattle Seahawks meeting room belonged to someone other than Pete Carroll. Walking into that room was somewhat surreal. Remember, it had been just three weeks since it was stuffed to the brim with applauding employees thanking Pete for all he had done. The basketball hoop was still in the corner and all of the other faces were familiar. But once John Schneider and Mike Macdonald took their pictures and sat at the table, it was an entirely new world.

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I’m glad I went. I haven’t made much of a secret of my skepticism. Macdonald clearly has the brainpower and successful resume of a top-tier coordinator. But for years I have argued that NFL teams do a disservice to their fans by simply hiring the top coordinator on whatever team had a good season and assuming that person will also have the skills and talents that translate to the new job.

I was perfectly willing to believe Macdonald had the soft skills to go with the obvious ones. But it struck me as a little premature to assume he had them before we got a chance to know him and hear about the process.

There was no way for him to answer all of those questions in just a short press conference, and obviously it’s a whole lot more important that he show the players, coaches and everyone in that building how he leads rather than proving it to a media chump like me. But as far as first impressions go, this one couldn’t have gone much better.

Here are seven key words that stood out from the day:

As Schneider introduced Macdonald, it didn’t seem like an accident when he said “this is the future.” It seemed like a clear message that the organization was looking forward, getting younger, and concentrating on what is to come. And if you are more of a visual learner, you couldn’t miss the slim fit hoodie under Macdonald’s suit (or the Jordan’s on his feet). It was very clear that they were demonstrating that this was a new day and about the future.

It makes sense and it’s exactly what I would want in their situation. The ghosts of Pete Carroll are going to haunt those halls for a while. His impact was so thoroughly felt in that building that it would be impossible to eradicate that energy even after you take down the signs and messaging. But for Macdonald to have a chance to succeed a legend, it needs to be about the future. And while it may not have been a conscious decision, it doesn’t seem like an accident to have gone from the oldest coach in the league to the youngest. Nor did it seem accidental to emphasize that in the introduction.

Macdonald is intense. Very intense. As much as his fashion choices screamed youth, his demeaner was more that of an old soul. He took every question seriously, and you could just feel the intensity emanating off him. He didn’t offer a full philosophical mantra nor even any slogans – in fact, he bristled at the odea of co-opting “the Ravens Way” in Seattle – but he did say they would work by “giving all we got, one day at a time.” It struck me as the kind of process that has helped him climb so quickly to the top of his chosen profession.

Similarly, he struck me as very methodical. We had heard he was detail-oriented, and that’s hard to judge in a press conference environment. But it sure wouldn’t surprise me based on the way he answered questions. He considered the question, took them seriously, and answered at his own pace. He was polite and forthcoming, but didn’t give away any more than he chose to. I got the sense that he had a plan and would stick to it.

He commanded the room. This might be the No. 1 thing I was looking for, and it was evident. All eyes were on him and he was very comfortable with that. He didn’t blabber on and he didn’t deflect with jokes. He was just straight up in charge. Whereas Pete would fill up a room with words upon words upon words, Macdonald let it breathe. He let the room come to him. And that made me feel a lot better about his jump from coordinator to head coach.

He wants the team to be physical. He wouldn’t commit to an offense and he was adamant that his defensive style isn’t about reaching specific percentages or blitz rates. Instead, it is all about doing what needs to be done on that day , for that play, or in that moment. As much as we heard the name “Harbaugh” invoked throughout the morning, in some ways his defensive scheme sounded more like something we would attribute to Bill Belichick. But he wants the team to be physical, and I think every Seahawks fan would agree that has been missing for the past few years.

He is modern. Yes, that is similar to the bit about the future, but this more about how he twice mentioned “growth mentalities.” In fact, he went so far as to say that was what he was looking for in an offensive coordinator. For all of the contrasts with Pete Carroll, this was where they were most similar. It was from Pete that I first heard this term (along with his emphasis on “grit,” and it’s one that we often use at my house in raising out two daughters.

Macdonald struck me as a student. And Schneider addressed that by calling him a “learning networker rather than a climbing networker.” Interesting distinction! But I think he’s saying that Macdonald has sought out other coaches to learn from them rather than just to get noticed for the next job.

He is authentic. He isn’t Pete Carroll, nor do I expect him to be. He isn’t John Schneider nor John Harnaugh. He seemed very comfortable being Mike Macdonald. He is going to succeed (or not) by being himself. And hopefully that is what will make him relatable to the players. It’s the only way to be.

It’ll be some time before we find out what kind of coach we have here in Seattle. And the comparisons to his legendary predecessor are almost unavoidable. But on day one, he showed the public everything we would want to see. That’s all any of us can ask right now.

More on new Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald

• Seahawks hope ‘disruptor’ Macdonald can make them contenders again
• What Stood Out: New Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald joins Bump & Stacy
• Key takeaways from Mike Macdonald’s 1st Seahawks press conference
• The File: Who is new Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald?
• A Ravens insider breaks down strengths of Seattle Seahawks’ Mike Macdonald
• What Macdonald must do when making jump to Seahawks head coach

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