Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff WriterFeb 1, 2024, 01:19 PM ET
CloseJamison Hensley is a reporter covering the Baltimore Ravens for ESPN. Jamison joined ESPN in 2011, covering the AFC North before focusing exclusively on the Ravens beginning in 2013. Jamison won the National Sports Media Association Maryland Sportswriter of the Year award in 2018, and he authored a book titled: Flying High: Stories of the Baltimore Ravens. He was the Ravens beat writer for the Baltimore Sun from 2000-2011.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens promoted inside linebackers coach Zachary Orr to defensive coordinator Thursday, elevating one of their former star defenders and making history as a result.
Orr is the first former Ravens player to be named to a coordinator position in the franchise’s 28-year existence. In quickly replacing Mike Macdonald, who was hired as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday, Orr is the Ravens’ new defensive playcaller just seven years after being a second-team All-Pro inside linebacker for Baltimore.
Zachary Orr is the Ravens’ new defensive coordinator just seven years after being a second-team All-Pro inside linebacker for the team. Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports
“Zach is a homegrown Raven in every way,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “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’s rise to defensive coordinator comes after a season in which both Ravens inside linebackers — Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen — made the Pro Bowl. The Ravens have been impressed with his knowledge, passion, communication and understanding of their culture as a coach as well as a player.
CoordinatorPos.AgeNick Rallis, ARIDC30Zachary Orr, BALDC31Brad Idzik, CAROC32Joe Brady, BUFOC34DeMarcus Covington, NEDC34– ESPN Stats & Information
In 2016, Orr was named second-team All-Pro after leading the Ravens with 133 tackles. But he had to abruptly retire after his best season in the NFL because of a congenital neck and spine condition.
Orr joins the likes of Mike Vrabel and DeMeco Ryans as former All-Pro players who became coordinators over the past two decades. At 31, Orr is the second-youngest coordinator in the NFL behind Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Nick Rallis, who is 30.
Undrafted from North Texas, Orr was one of the most respected Ravens despite playing only three seasons. He worked his way up from being a special teams player as a rookie to a starter on a top-10 defense. In his last season, he was one of only two NFL players with at least 100 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery (Carolina’s Thomas Davis was the other).
After retiring, Orr worked four seasons as a defensive analyst for the Ravens before spending one season as an outside linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Orr returned to Baltimore in 2022 as its inside linebackers coach before becoming the ninth defensive coordinator in Ravens history.
By selecting Orr, Harbaugh continued his trend of staying in-house. After Harbaugh kept Rex Ryan from coach Brian Billick’s staff to become his first defensive coordinator, five of his six defensive coordinators have been promoted from within: Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano, Dean Pees, Wink Martindale and now Orr. The only exception was Macdonald, but he had spent six years with the Ravens before becoming the University of Michigan defensive coordinator for one season.
Baltimore has lost a total of three executives and coaches since its 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. Macdonald went to the Seahawks; director of player personnel Joe Hortiz became the Los Angeles Chargers’ general manager; and defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson became the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator.