“Whatever it takes to win the game.”
That approach — nimble, flexible and willing to adapt on the fly — has served Michigan well under Macdonald, the 34-year-old assistant from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Macdonald had never coordinated a defense before coming to Michigan, but his football IQ and experience learning from some of the best in Baltimore was enough to win over Harbaugh.
Macdonald’s willingness to bend from an Xs and Os perspective was a breath of fresh air from his predecessor, Don Brown, whose “Dr. Blitz” nickname embodied his pressure-first philosophy. While that approach worked against most, it didn’t against the speed and athleticism that Ohio State possessed. In Michigan’s 2018 and 2019 losses to the Buckeyes, OSU hung a combined 118 points on more than 1,100 yards of offense.
For Michigan to get over the hump, Harbaugh figured, it would need to change it up. There’s where Macdonald came into play — and the move has worked out better than anyone ever could have imagined.