Inside linebackers coach, former player Zach Orr replaces Macdonald as Ravens defensive coordinator

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The Ravens wasted little time replacing defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald with someone with which fans will be quite familiar.

Inside linebackers coach Zach Orr will become the ninth defensive coordinator in franchise history and the first ex-Ravens player to become a coordinator in their 29-year history. A 2014 undrafted free agent out of North Texas, the 31-year-old Orr played three seasons in Baltimore and was named a 2016 second-team All-Pro inside linebacker before the discovery of a congenital spine condition forced his retirement after just three seasons.

Orr quickly transitioned to coaching, serving as a coaching and personnel assistant and a defensive analyst for four years with the Ravens before being hired as Jacksonville’s outside linebackers coach in 2021. A year later, he rejoined the Ravens as their inside linebackers coach after Macdonald returned to the organization to replace Wink Martindale as defensive coordinator. Of course, he coached a pair of Pro Bowl inside linebackers — Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen — this past season.

“Zach is a homegrown Raven in every way,” head coach John 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.”

Orr will now become the second-youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL and will be trusted to oversee a defense that became the first in NFL history to lead the league in scoring, sacks, and takeaways in 2023. He is also the fourth straight Baltimore defensive coordinator to have previously served as a linebackers coach for the team, perhaps a reflection of how the organization has valued the position over the years.

While not being far removed from his playing career has served as an effective early bridge with his players, Orr has acknowledged the challenges of transitioning from playing to coaching at such a young age. He offered high praise to various members of the organization for helping in his coaching development before he joined the Jaguars staff and returned to the Ravens as their inside linebackers coach.

“It’s something that I had to work on. As a player, I understood the game pretty well, but coaching is a whole different deal,” Orr said in the spring of 2022. “It’s not what you know, it’s what can you teach the players and what they can retain and what they know. Obviously, when I got my start, I couldn’t start in a better place. … I just sat and watched and observed and learned. I took little things from everybody and put my own little spin on it. It’s a thing you constantly work at and everything. That’s what I’m excited about. I’m just getting started, and hopefully I can continue to get better.”

Orr was regarded as one of four viable in-house candidates to replace Macdonald, a group also including assistant head coach and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, secondary coach and pass game coordinator Chris Hewitt, and defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson. The Tennessee Titans are hiring Wilson to become their new defensive coordinator while Weaver had interviewed for Washington’s head coach opening that is going to Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

The Ravens will hold an introductory press conference with Orr next week.

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