Cardinals’ Jonathan Gannon’s love-hate relationship with Philadelphia

Feb 20, 2023, 3:00 PM
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon of the Philadelphia Eagles against the Green Bay Packers at L...
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon of the Philadelphia Eagles against the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Losing a coordinator to a head coaching job elsewhere is usually more so a bitter than sweet moment for fans.

In Philadelphia’s case, seeing Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon become the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach this week was a bit different.

“They threw a parade that the Cardinals hired Jonathan Gannon here,” Philadelphia broadcaster Anthony Gargano told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta. “He was not the most popular figure in Philadelphia.”

The Eagles went 14-3 in 2022 with the eighth-best scoring defense in the NFL at 20.2 points per game. They allowed seven points in each of their playoff wins ahead of a 38-35 Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the big game, though, Philadelphia did not get a single stop in the second half and surrendered two wide-open touchdowns in the red zone after motion.

Gargano said his town never quite warmed up to Gannon even before the Super Bowl due to his defensive style.

“Philadelphia loves defensive football,” Gargano said. “Gannon comes in, and he plays more of that Tampa 2 shell. It’s more of an analytic friendly defense, where you don’t give up big plays, you rely on your front and you don’t give up plays over the top. And it’s more of a bend but don’t break type of thing.”

The Eagles did not blitz much at 22.1%, but Gannon’s defense was effective in most games. The Eagles allowed the fewest net yards gained per pass and yards per play on the year.

Kansas City, though, effectively ran the ball to the tune of 158 yards, while quarterback Patrick Mahomes picked the Eagles apart in the intermediate passing game during the second half. A lot of the online blame from fans went to Gannon.

The perception of Gannon inside the building throughout his two-year tenure was very different from the stands.

Eagles reporter for SportsRadio 94WIP Eliot Shorr-Parks told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo that he felt Eagles fans were wrong to dislike Gannon as much as they did.

He highlighted Gannon’s head coaching intangibles and ability to connect with players.

“In my two years around Gannon, and I would say my takeaway from him is the players loved him,” Shorr-Parks said. “The whole time the fans have been ripping up, players swear up and down on the record, off the record, that they really liked him.

“He listens to them, he adjusted to what they like. I mean, Hasson Reddick, whom you guys are familiar with, they worked great together this year in finding a role for him to be an outstanding player.”

Eagles team writer Dave Spadoro agreed that Gannon was well liked in the building, has a great personality and can be tough.

Shorr-Parks also said Gannon’s experience in a top-tier organization like the Eagles should help him build a culture as head coach. However, he also felt the Cardinals needed an offensive mind in the role, noting that hiring Gannon puts a lot of pressure on the offensive coordinator hire to get the most out of Kyler Murray.

Gannon said he wanted an OC who can build the offense around Murray’s skillset, and Arizona hired former Cleveland Browns QBs coach Drew Petzing.

The Cardinals were quick to hire Gannon less than two days after the Super Bowl loss. Time will tell whether the Red Sea will embrace their new head coach more the the Eagles fans did.

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