Cardinals’ new coaching staff is impossibly green by NFL standards

Feb 23, 2023, 7:09 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2023, 4:00 pm

New Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon answers a question from the media during a press c...

New Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon answers a question from the media during a press conference at Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center on February 16, 2023 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Jonathan Gannon vividly remembers the first play he called as defensive coordinator in Philadelphia. That’s because nobody heard a word that came out of his mouth.

“I forgot to push the button,” Gannon said.

Ah, but good coaches learn fast. They learn on the fly. They understand the NFL is a steady diet of disasters, a series of unseen hurdles. You find a way to get over. You find a way to see around the corners. These are all central themes of Gannon’s early tenure in Arizona.

By NFL standards, the new coaching staff in Arizona is impossibly green. The first-time head coach is 40 years old. His first-time defensive coordinator is 29. Together, they are younger than Bruce Arians. Meanwhile, the first-time offensive coordinator, Drew Petzing, is just 35 and tasked with mentoring a $230 million franchise quarterback.

If the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury was an affront to the old-school notion of paying your dues, this staff might be perceived as openly mocking the value of hard-earned experience. Yet the sheer force of Gannon’s personality is making all things seem possible. Mostly, because he keeps saying all the right things.

Consider how Gannon stole/saved Petzing’s press conference on Thursday. Just a few minutes past scheduled arrival, he bound into the media room proclaiming, “We’re late! We’re late! Not a good start!”

He spoke about the type of player meetings he will stage in Arizona, and how they will feature “hot spots” where players will be tested for their general understanding of strategy, grilled in front of their peers. That’s real accountability.

Gannon also said that concepts like accountability and discipline get a bad reputation. That they can be positive forces on a football team, and that “our guys will feel that from us.”

Players will surely respond to Gannon’s commanding voice and alpha presence. They already have. Both he and Petzing raved about Murray’s attendance at team headquarters, and how his car was still in the parking lot at 9 p.m. the other night.

Let’s hope for the best. Because Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill also said Thursday that he and his organization balked on trading for impact head coach Sean Payton because it would cost the team too much in draft capital. If Gannon isn’t a star in the making, the decision to pass on Payton might seem very short-sighted in the near future.

For now, Gannon is hitting all the high notes. He is showing over-the-top conviction in his head coaching chops, even though he is also learning on the fly, a man who lost the Super Bowl in Arizona and landed a job in Arizona in the span of 48 hours.

But Gannon isn’t acting a bit surprised by any of it. And when the new offensive coordinator asked for one piece of advice moving forward, Gannon’s response was simple and straightforward:

“Push the button,” he said.

They say youth is wasted on the young. Let’s hope it’s not wasted on the Arizona Cardinals.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

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Cardinals’ new coaching staff is impossibly green by NFL standards