Holdovers providing Arizona Cardinals’ Jonathan Gannon familiarity in new role
TEMPE — There are more than a few new faces roaming the halls of the Arizona Cardinals training facility this offseason.
With first-year head coach Jonathan Gannon now running the show, sweeping changes to the coaching staff have been made as they typically do when a new regime takes over.
Over the past month or so, Arizona has been busy scouring the NFL landscape for the right fits philosophically, adding 16 new assistants during that span.
It wasn’t a complete overhaul, though, as Gannon and Co. ended up retaining seven assistants from the Kliff Kingsbury era.
One of those holdovers is special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Jeff Rodgers, who embarks on his sixth season in the desert and fourth coaching regime during that span.
It was a huge keep for Gannon as he begins his tenure.
“Being the assistant head coach and a special teams coordinator of that caliber, that was a very important piece for us to keep,” Gannon said. “He’s helped me a ton already. Love that he’s here.”
“He’s got a lot of information. … I’ve leaned on him a lot already and just with all the aspects of the day-to-day. It was a huge piece,” the head coach added. “Obviously, the caliber of coach he is but his brain as well. I’m very glad that he’s here.”
For Rodgers, his reasoning for sticking around was simple: he gets to remain in a city that he’s come to know in an organization he’s more than familiar with.
And above all else, “it’s better than the alternative.”
“It’s good that you don’t have to move,” Rodgers said earlier this month. “There’s things in simple every day life. You’re looking at the GPS on your phone on how to get to work or you know the way to work. Inherent knowledge of those things makes life go more smooth.”
Rodgers’ resume speaks for itself, but he’s far from the only holdover that Gannon is excited to bring back to the fold.
Two more names that come to mind are pass game specialist Spencer Whipple and defensive quality control coach Ronald Booker.
“We got a couple guys, Book is one of them that we ended up keeping, and there’s a reason why we kept all those guys,” Gannon said. “But (Whipple’s) brain and how he thinks about the game, it was huge hire for myself and really for (offensive coordinator Drew Petzing). He’s coached multiple positions in the back end there so (I’m) excited he’s on our staff.”
Whipple returns in his new role after serving as Arizona’s offensive quality control coach (2019), assistant wide receivers coach (2020-21) and co-passing game coordinator (2022).
He also worked closely with the running backs after the dismissal of run game coordinator and offensive line coach Sean Kugler.
Whipple now will be tasked with continuing to get Petzing up to speed on offensive personnel while adding another wrinkle to the passing game.
“Just really appreciative of the ownership and the staff here for giving me the opportunity to stay on and help because I love working here and I love living here and I’m just looking forward to still getting going in some offseason ball and getting ready for the season,” Whipple said. “It’s been a great experience so far.
“He’s great, he’s really great. Unbelievable. Brings a lot of enthusiasm, great plan for the players, the staff. … It’s only been a month in and I’ve learned a ton from him already and I think that’s what part of this profession is. In coaching, you get to meet new faces and be around new types of ideas and coaches. That’s kind of what it’s all about to grow as a coach.”
Booker on the other hand, hopes to continue his ascent up the NFL ranks.
The defensive quality control coach is coming off his second season with the Cardinals after serving as a defensive assistant. He joined the team as a Bill Walsh Coaching Fellow in 2020.
The good news for the aspiring Booker is that he has a prime example of what shooting up the coaching ranks looks like in defensive coordinator Nick Rallis, who is only five years removed from his time as a defensive quality control coach for the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
Not that long ago, Gannon was in a similar position as the Tennessee Titans’ defensive quality control coach in 2007 before shooting up the ranks.
“This year’s all about being where my feet are . … I would love to be a position coach in the next couple of years and move from that to coordinator to like JG and be a head coach one day,” Booker said.
“(Gannon’s ascension to head coach) definitely does motivates me. Just seeing how he carries himself each and every day coming in early and getting the chance to watch how he constructs our staff meetings, the way he goes about just approaching our players and how thoughtful he is toward everything for the vision for the players is going to be really good for me whenever I get that opportunity.”