Cardinals opt for youthful inexperience with Jonathan Gannon hire

Feb 14, 2023, 3:06 PM | Updated: 3:11 pm
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon looks on during the game between the Phil...
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon looks on during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Commanders on September 25, 2022 at Fedex Field in Landover, MD. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jonathan Gannon is the new head coach of the Cardinals. He was the last one in the door and the last man standing in Arizona. That says a lot about his ability to capture the room.

Somehow, he made the Cardinals forget the second half of Super Bowl LVII.

Gannon is a risky, untimely hire. #FireGannon has been trending in Philadelphia for two years. He was a polarizing figure in Philadelphia before his defense surrendered 24 second-half points to the Chiefs. Before his defense was badly burned twice in the redzone, allowing shockingly easy touchdowns.

He is only 40 years old, and the third consecutive rookie head coach hired by Michael Bidwill. He is reportedly focusing on a 35-year-old quarterbacks coach from Cleveland to be his offensive coordinator, appointing another rookie to install a new offense and fix Kyler Murray. With all that youthful inexperience, what could possibly go wrong?

This is exactly the scenario the Cardinals needed to avoid. It’s the same business model that sunk Robert Sarver’s Suns for nearly a decade, an organization that hired young, inexperienced, pliable, grateful, uncertain candidates and gave them really big jobs.

Then again, the Cardinals didn’t have a lot of options. In the end, Sean Payton didn’t want the job. Neither did Dan Quinn. Apparently, neither did Brian Flores. Whether it’s a heavy-handed owner, the injured quarterback or the non-stop dysfunction in 2022, the marketplace reaction to the vacancy in Arizona should be a reality check for the entire organization.

Of course, it’s possible that Gannon will turn out to be an excellent choice. Bidwill has already executed a pair of bold maneuvers in the wake of a 4-13 season. He fired Kliff Kingsbury, swallowing a contract and admitting an egregious error. He hired a general manager from the outside, eschewing a pair of strong in-house candidates. Those are steps taken by an owner who is serious about culture change.

Alas, a diehard Eagles fan chided me when I asked for a scouting report (“Did you see the second half of the Super Bowl?”). Another told me that Gannon is very smart, and that he might make a better head coach in Arizona than he was a defensive coordinator in Philadelphia, where the fan base demands a certain attacking archetype, one that Gannon struggled to fulfill.

It’s also unfair to profile Gannon solely off a Super Bowl loss to Patrick Mahomes. After all, Kyle Shanahan was once offensive coordinator for a Falcons team that blew a 28-3 lead to Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. He turned out to be a great hire.

At bare minimum, we know Gannon is a former star athlete from Ohio; a coach who paid his dues as an NFL scout; and a defensive coordinator tough enough for the most profane, passionate fan base in America. His debut at State Farm Stadium will represent a chance at atonement, the site of his most recent Super Bowl loss.

Until then, let’s hope Gannon brings real leadership, a command of the room, and a hefty heaping of gravitas. Because that’s what his new football team needs the most.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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Cardinals opt for youthful inexperience with Jonathan Gannon hire