The wait for a new Cardinals head coach makes sense because the man who got the job was busy until now.
Jonathan Gannon, who was the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator, completed a whirlwind week on Tuesday when he agreed to terms on a five-year contract after prepping and coaching in the Super Bowl through Sunday and being interviewed by owner Michael Bidwill and GM Monti Ossenfort on Monday.
“I am super excited about the opportunity,” said Gannon, who got a chance to briefly meet with quarterback Kyler Murray before flying back to Philadelphia. “I look forward to getting my hands on the players and putting a winning product on the field.”
Gannon, 40, becomes the 11th coach the team has hired since moving to Arizona in 1988, replacing Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury was fired on Jan. 9 after the Cardinals finished 4-13. More than a month later, the Cards waited Gannon out until he was available.
Gannon will retrieve his family and then return to Arizona for a planned Thursday morning introductory press conference.
“Jonathan came in here with a lot of energy, helped his team to a very successful season, and came in here as a natural leader, a charisma to him,” Ossenfort said. “It was a natural fit between myself and Michael, our conversation from the start, and we all share a joint vision of what the Arizona Cardinals are going to be moving forward.”
As recently as after the NFC Championship game, Gannon had said he was going to remain in Philadelphia after interviews for other head coach openings didn’t pan out. But the Cardinals worked on an interview less than 24 hours after the Eagles’ 38-35 loss to the Chiefs and the partnership came together quickly.
“We’ve been looking at Jonathan for a while,” Bidwill said. “I know Jonathan and Monti had spoken last year and Monti was pretty fired up about him. I got a chance to watch some videos about Jonathan and got a feel for his personality.
“When he came in (Monday) and put together his vision, his plan, it really seemed like it stood out. We had tremendous candidates, but he stood out in terms of his energy and also what his plan is. Every time he has been in a position to lead, he has excelled.”
The Eagles lost both their coordinators Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was introduced as the new Colts head coach as well.
Gannon was the Eagles defensive coordinator for two seasons, both top 10 years for the unit. This season, the Eagles had an incredible 70 sacks this season, along with 17 interceptions, and finished second in the NFL in total defense.
The Cardinals have a game in Philadelphia next season.
“This guy is an incredible coordinator. People love to play for this guy,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said after a playoff win against the Giants last month. “Every time I hear (criticism) about Jonathan Gannon I laugh to myself. As a matter of fact, coaches from other teams ask me, ‘Does Jonathan Gannon get crap here?’ I’m like, ‘Somehow, yeah.’ Like, this guy is incredible.
“He’s going to be a head football coach in the National Football League because of what he does. This guy is a stud. He’s a stud.”
Before his time in Philadelphia, Gannon spent three seasons as the Colts defensive backs coach, four seasons as the Vikings defensive backs coach, and two seasons as a Titans quality control coach. He started his career in 2007 as a Falcons quality control coach, and then spent three seasons as a scout with the Rams before going to Tennessee.
“I’ve learned a lot of different things,” Gannon said during his introductory press conference in Philadelphia in 2021. “You piece that together as you go along. When I got here, I didn’t drop a book on the table and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re running.’
“You can ask the head coach, he asked, ‘What scheme are you going to run?’ I said ‘I don’t have a scheme.’ I believe that you have to be adaptable. We have to figure out what out what our players can do and put them in those positions as much as possible to utilize their strengths.”
Gannon’s first order of business will be to hire a staff, including an offensive coordinator who will work to bring Murray back to and above his previous Pro Bowl level. The Cardinals also will need to make a decision on current defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who remains under contract.
“We’ll be working on the plan,” Gannon said.