The Arizona Cardinals and Jonathan Gannon have agreed to a contract that will see Gannon become the new Cardinals head coach for the next five years. He takes over after Kliff Kingsbury’s four-year stint that involved one playoff appearance. The other finalist was Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, who now returns to Cincinnati.
Gannon was formerly the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. Many were disappointed with how his unit played in the Super Bowl, but he led the Eagles to a very solid season. They finished with the most sacks and most interceptions in the league and were among the top defenses.
The Cardinals had been rumored to be interested in Gannon for quite some time now. Since the announcement of his interview on Monday, it was revealed that Monti Ossenfort had scouted Gannon last Summer and determined that Gannon has the ‘it’ factor to be a head coach. Arizona’s need to appoint Ossenfort early in January delayed the head coaching search for Arizona. It meant that the team missed the first window to interview Gannon, which is why they took so long to make a decision on their appointment.
More than 30 days after the Cardinals’ initial search began, the team have finally made an appointment. It was a long, drawn-out process that resetted multiple times but it seems Gannon was the frontrunner all along. He is well regarded among the league and was a top candidate for the Houston Texans this year and last year.
For the Eagles, this is a big loss. The team will now need to find a new defensive coordinator. Philadelphia also lost Shane Steichen to the Indianapolis Colts, which means a new offensive coordinator is needed too.
Welcome to the Valley, Coach!
We’ve agreed to terms with Jonathan Gannon to become our next head coach! pic.twitter.com/jDp9MezorO
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 14, 2023
Jonathan Gannon, Ossenfort and Culture With Cardinals
Gannon has developed a close relationship with Ossenfort throughout the hiring process. The two have a strong mutual friend in Nick Caserio, the Texans GM. As such, this hire makes perfect sense. Gannon is known as a coach who can develop a strong culture of discipline as well as being able to relate to players. He is also known as a good motivator, excellent public speaker and smart tactician. According to Benjamin Allbright, every GM this hiring cycle wanted Gannon. The matter was whether teams could wait until after the Super Bowl.
Given Gannon’s status in Ossenfort’s hierarchy, the appointment is clearly done by the GM as opposed to owner Michael Bidwill. There were rumors earlier this year that Bidwill was seen as an incompetent GM who was both cheap and meddling. Critics cited instances where the old regime of Kingsbury and Steve Keim were often too influenced by Bidwill. However, this feels like the dawn of a new era where Ossenfort is the one calling the shots.
Ossenfort’s infatuation with Gannon is likely down to the culture that he believes Gannon can build. Striking the balance between discipline and lenience is a tough one in the NFL, but it is something that Gannon has been praised for. Accountability is something the Cardinals lacked last year, but Gannon has the traits of a leader first and a strategist second.
The final thing to note is Gannon’s clarity of structure. His defense was effective but not flashy. It was simple, back-to-basics stuff. Clarity and transparency on and off the field should allow the franchise to unify under a big culture. It will also mean that every player will know their responsibilities on the pitch, something that was missing under Kingsbury at times.
FIRED UP 🔥 pic.twitter.com/flHpfermpC
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 14, 2023
Jonathan Gannon’s Rumored Personnel
Currently, the rumored frontrunner for the Cardinals offensive coordinator job is Drew Petzing, the quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns. He is a promising young head coach who did an excellent job with Jacoby Brissett this year. Having worked with wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks, many consider the 35-year-old to be ready for his first coordinator gig. Petzing was the wide receivers coach with the Minnesota Vikings when Jonathan Gannon was the defensive backs coach.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) February 14, 2023
Mike Munchak is another name to watch. He was previously the head coach of the Tennessee Titans and was the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He would likely wound up as a senior offensive assistant/assistant head coach and offensive line coach under Gannon. Given his experience as a head coach, he would bring some much-needed leadership and experience to a young staff.
How much of the old offensive regime stays remains unclear. Spencer Whipple and Cam Turner are currently the team’s pass game coordinators. They are considered promising coaches but, under the new regime, may be free to go. Shawn Jefferson, the wide receivers coach, drew interest from the New England Patriots for their offensive coordinator vacancy. His future also remains unclear.
There are a few names to watch for on the defensive side of the ball. The first is Nick Rallis, the current Eagles linebackers coach. The 29-year-old is one of the hottest coordinator candidates in the league right now but could be lured to Arizona to work under Gannon. The prospect of developing Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins is probably enticing too. In Arizona, Rallis would either assume the defensive coordinator role or be the linebackers coach and assistant head coach.
Mike Zimmer is another name that has come up. He would join the team as a defensive coordinator or senior defensive assistant. The 66-year-old was most recently the head coach of the Vikings, where he served between 2014 and 2021. He would be a huge coup should Arizona land him. Gannon would likely implement a 4-3 defense with a lot of cover-2 zone formations (though Gannon is also known for his disguised and hybrid coverages, moving to cover 6 and quarters). Zimmer is an expert on this kind of defense.
Hearing Nick Rallis and Mike Zimmer could have spots on Jonathan Gannon's defensive staff. Rallis will be 30 in July. Five years as assistant with Vikings, last two as LB coach. He might be DC or assistant head coach/LBs with Zimmer possibly DC or senior defensive assistant.
— Howard Balzer (@HBalzer721) February 14, 2023
Andrew Sendejo is another candidate to work under Jonathan Gannon and the Cardinals. He has yet to accrue any coaching experience, but Gannon is a huge fan of him from their shared time in Minnesota. Sendejo could be a position coach or a defensive pass game coordinator for the Cardinals.
In terms of the remaining staff, it seems unlikely that many would stay. Many of the coaches from last year have already been poached. Matt Burke is Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator, Marcus Robertson has moved to the New Orleans Saints and Charlie Bullen has also moved on, among others. The big question mark is Vance Joseph. He was a frontrunner for the head coaching vacancy early on but his stock has since fallen. As it stands, the likeliest scenario is that he will be departing Arizona.
Main Photo: Bill Streicher – USA Today Sports