The 5: Things to know about new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon

Feb 15, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:32 am
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon watches during NFL rookie football minica...
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon watches during NFL rookie football minicamp on May 6, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Christopher Szagola)
(AP Photo/Christopher Szagola)

The Arizona Cardinals have once again hired a first-time head coach.

This time around, it’s Jonathan Gannon.

But who exactly is this 40-year-old defensive coordinator taking over head-coaching duties for the first time in his football life?

Here are the five things to know about Jonathan Gannon:

Historic 2022 season

Gannon is coming off of just his second year as a DC, but it was quite an impressive one with the Philadelphia Eagles en route to an NFC Championship title and a Super Bowl appearance.

The Eagles led the NFL in sacks with 70 in the regular season and 78 including playoff games. That metric trails only two teams for the most sacks ever in a single season: the 1984 Chicago Bears and 1989 Minnesota Vikings teams who finished with 72 and 71, respectively.

An NFL record four players recorded 10 or more sacks: LB Haason Reddick (16), DT Javon Hargrave (11) and DEs Brandon Graham (11) and Josh Sweat (11).

Gannon’s defense also boasted the No. 1 passing defense (179.8 per game) and No. 2 total defense (301.5) in the NFL, while finishing tied for the fourth-most in takeaways (27) and interceptions (17) and tied for the seventh-best scoring defense (20.2).

Philadelphia ranked in the middle of the NFL pack in terms of man-versus-zone defensive rates and similarly in terms of blitz percentage.

The Eagles blitzed 22.1% of the time compared to the Vance Joseph-led Cardinals ranking second at 34.5% in 2022. The Eagles, however, created 21 more total pressures and nearly twice as many sacks (70 to 36).

Monti connection

Ossenfort, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, got to know Gannon in the last few months, before the GM even had secured a new executive position away from the Tennessee Titans.

Over the summer, new Arizona GM Monti Ossenfort (with some help from his agent) came up with a list of 10 to 12 coaches that he’d wanted to get to know, so he’d have a solid list to work from in case he landed a GM job after the season. Three guys on that list wound up impressing him — Bengals OC Brian Callahan, Lions DC Aaron Glenn and Gannon, who, for his part, showed Ossenfort he had the sort of it factor needed to become a head coach in the NFL. The twist again, because of the rules, was Ossenfort would have to wait on him.

Of all the head-coaching candidates linked to the Cardinals this offseason, Gannon was the 12th and final name to sit down with Arizona.

He and Ossenfort now embark on the first year of their respective roles, neither having any experience at the positions. It’ll be a learning experience for both.

Assistant coaching tree

We’ve all heard of coaching trees, when a head coach’s assistant branches out.

Now a head coach himself, Gannon adds a branch for five head coaches from his NFL tenure:

– Nick Sirianni (Eagles 2021-22)
– Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts 2018-20)
– Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings 2014-17)
– Mike Munchak (Titans 2012-13)
– Bobby Petrino (Atlanta Falcons 2007)

After seeing zero postseason berths with Petrino and Munchak, Gannon was a part of six playoff teams working under Sirianni (two), Reich (two) and Zimmer (two). The Eagles’ Super Bowl berth this past season was the farthest any of Gannon’s teams had made it in his 15-year NFL career.

Scouting experience

Prior to his time in the NFL coaching ranks, Gannon was a college scout (2009) and pro scout (2010-11) for the St. Louis Rams.

His experience working in scouting should come in handy when it comes to rebuilding a roster alongside Ossenfort.

Before his roles with the Cardinals and Titans, Ossenfort was fully immersed in the scouting life, serving as Patriots director of college scouting from 2014-19 after working his way up through the ranks.

Ohio star athlete

The Cleveland, Ohio, native was a three-sport athlete at Saint Ignatius High School, where he won a state title in basketball as a point guard, was a district champion as a hurdler in track and was also a Division I wide receiver and defensive back.

Unfortunately for Gannon, he suffered a career-ending hip injury playing football his freshman year at Louisville.

With his playing days behind him, he turned to coaching, serving as a student assistant (2003-05) and graduate assistant (2006) for Petrino at his alma mater, Louisville, where the Cardinals won the 2006 Orange Bowl.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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The 5: Things to know about new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon