Cardinals’ Jonathan Gannon planning to retain more Kingsbury-era coaches

Feb 23, 2023, 11:49 AM | Updated: Feb 24, 2023, 4:00 pm
Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...
Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — For the most part, the Arizona Cardinals are taking a clean-slate approach with new general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon running the show.

We’ve already seen that practice in action following the release of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and parting of ways with associate head coach and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, among others.

But while Gannon is largely filling out his staff with his own hand-picked choices from all over the country, the head coach is open to retaining those from the old regime.

Just take assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who is remaining in his same role and will now be working with the third head coach of his Arizona tenure.

It sounds like he’s not the only one staying put in the desert, either.

“We’re still in discussions with some of that but there are a couple guys that we’re going to keep because they fit the mold of what I was looking for,” Gannon said Wednesday. “It was a pleasure to talk to all those guys and a lot of those guys had opportunities and that’s kind of normal.

“VJ was one, I had a great conversation with him. … Shawn Jefferson I think is going to Carolina with (Frank Reich) and helped me a lot and gave me a lot of information. … But I’m really excited. There’s some guys that we’re going to keep that when you see the final list put out, you’ll know why I kept them.”

As it stands Thursday morning, Arizona has filled the current roles under Gannon:

– Offensive coordinator: Drew Petzing
– Defensive coordinator: Nick Rallis
– Assistant head coach/special teams coordinator: Jeff Rodgers
– Cornerbacks coach: Ryan Smith (reported)
– Tight ends coach: Ben Steele (reported)
– Offensive line coach: Klayton Adams (reported)
– Offensive assistant/passing game coordinator: Drew Terrell (reported)
– Defensive assistant: Patrick Toney (reported)
– Linebackers coach: Sam Siefkes (reported)

Of the names that stand out when thinking about any other potential holdovers from Kliff Kingsbury’s coaching staff is co-passing game coordinator Spencer Whipple.

Whipple moved up the ranks rather quickly since joining the Cardinals in 2019. Starting out as an offensive quality control coach, he was promoted to assistant wide receivers coach (2020-21) before taking over as co-passing game coordinator alongside Cam Turner.

In addition to his role in the passing game, Whipple took over as the team’s running backs coach after Arizona decided to go in a different direction from assistant RBs coach Don Shumpert. The assistant had been in charge of the room with former RBs coach James Saxon on administrative leave due to off-the-field issues. Saxon later resigned.

Whipple also served as offensive play caller in the team’s win over the Cleveland Browns in 2021 with Kingsbury sidelined due to COVID-19.

Having already worked with the wide receivers and running backs — two positions still in need of a coach — on top of his role in the passing game last season, Whipple is a prime candidate to stick around.

As is Whipple’s counterpart in Cam Turner.

Turner worked closely with quarterback Kyler Murray as the team’s co-passing game coordinator and QBs coach this past season. He also served as Arizona’s QBs coach in 2021 after working as an offensive assistant and assistant QBs in 2020.

From an offensive standpoint, he could make the transition of power a little smoother having built a rapport with Murray and already seeing two regimes pass through during his time in the desert.

Linebackers Bill Davis is another name that could be retained by Gannon, though if it happens, it’ll be in a different role after the Cardinals’ reported hire of Sam Siefkes to the position on Thursday.

Davis has a wealth of experience dating back to his days as a Pittsburgh Steelers defensive assistant in 1992 and has been a helping hand in developing MIKE backer Zaven Collins, who took a noticeable leap forward in Year 2 under the veteran coach.

He’s also worked closely with Isaiah Simmons and could be an asset in figuring out where exactly the star backer fits best in Arizona’s new-look defense.

It also doesn’t hurt that Davis has worked under multiple Cardinals head coaches in Ken Whisenhunt (2007-2010) and Kingsbury (2019-2022) during his two stints in the desert.

It just all comes down to if Whipple, Turner, Davis or any of the other coaches from the old share the vision of the new.

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