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Ravens Hire Zach Orr as New Defensive Coordinator

Defensive Coordinator Zachary Orr
Defensive Coordinator Zachary Orr

Head Coach John Harbaugh moved quickly to fill his open defensive coordinator position, promoting Zach Orr to take over the job vacated by Mike Macdonald.

Macdonald agreed to become the Seattle Seahawks’ new head coach Wednesday. One day later, Harbaugh announced that one of Macdonald's top lieutenants would take over.

Orr, 31, is highly regarded as a hard-working, smart, and energetic coach. He's spent the past two years coaching the Ravens' inside linebackers.

"Zach is a homegrown Raven in every way," Harbaugh said in a statement. "His energy, intelligence, work ethic and strong communication skills have been on display since the day he joined our organization as a player in 2014. From making our team as an undrafted rookie, to becoming an All-Pro linebacker, then later transitioning to an assistant coach who helped mentor multiple Pro Bowl defenders, Zach has excelled at every level of his football journey.

"He knows our players and understands our standard as well as anyone. I'm confident that he is prepared to take on the challenge of continuing to develop our players and scheme as our next defensive coordinator."

It's another young defensive coordinator hire by Harbaugh, as Orr is three years younger than Macdonald was when Harbaugh hired him two years ago. At the time, Macdonald was the youngest coordinator in the NFL at 34.

Unlike Macdonald, it will be Orr's first time calling plays. Macdonald got a year of experience doing that at the University of Michigan before returning to Baltimore.

But as Harbaugh has desired with previous hires, including Macdonald, Orr has a deep history with and understanding of Baltimore's defensive philosophy. He called out many Ravens' defenses as a player.

An undrafted linebacker out of North Texas in 2014, Orr played three seasons with the Ravens (2014-2016). He worked his way into becoming a full-time starter in 2016 and excelled with 133 tackles, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries – earning second-team All-Pro honors.

However, he was forced into early retirement immediately following that season after the Ravens' medical staff discovered a congenital back/spine condition that put him in serious danger if he continued to play football.

Orr wasn't ready to leave the game, so he quickly shifted his focus to coaching and the Ravens were thankful to keep him in the building. Orr spent the next four seasons (2017-2020) as a defensive analyst, learning the game from a coach's perspective.

In 2021, he left for his first job as a position coach, following Joe Cullen to Jacksonville as their outside linebackers coach. When that Urban Meyer-led coaching staff was broken up, Orr came back to Baltimore as Macdonald's inside linebackers coach.

Since then, Orr has coached the best inside linebacker group in the NFL, led by Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen, who were both named to the Pro Bowl this year. They're phenomenal players, but Orr helped get the most out of them and others. Queen especially took big strides in his development, as did Malik Harrison and rookie third-round pick Trenton Simpson.

Orr also reportedly interviewed with the Green Bay Packers for their defensive coordinator opening. Macdonald also may have had interest in bringing Orr with him to Seattle.

Harbaugh had several highly qualified in-house options to replace Macdonald. Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver, who was reportedly a favorite to become the head coach of the Washington Commanders. Defensive Backs Coach Dennard Wilson, who joined Baltimore's staff last offseason, is reportedly headed to Tennessee to be the Titans’ defensive coordinator. Pass Game Coordinator/Secondary Coach Chris Hewitt reportedly interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars for their defensive coordinator opening.

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