ESPN details why Cardinals’ hiring of Jonathan Gannon rubbed Eagles the wrong way

Dec 27, 2023, 8:57 AM | Updated: 12:17 pm

Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon...

Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon of the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals 20-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The timing of Jonathan Gannon’s departure as Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator to become head coach of the Cardinals might have irked Arizona fans because it was the final hire of the NFL head-coaching cycle and appeared more desperate than patient.

From the Eagles’ side of things, it bothered those in the front office because it came unexpectedly. The Cardinals gave Philadelphia draft capital because Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort illegally reached out to Gannon during a no-contact period as the Eagles made their run to reach Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.

An ESPN report leading into a Philadelphia-Arizona matchup on Sunday detailed why exactly the Eagles were bothered by the Cardinals courting their former defensive coordinator.

Gannon did not tell his then-current employers about receiving the phone call from Ossenfort, which led to the tampering charge. It rubbed Philadelphia the wrong way because it didn’t allow them to plan for replacing him with in-house voice Vic Fangio, a widely respected defensive mind who was hired on a two-week contract as an advisor during the Eagles’ postseason run.

So during the January call, Ossenfort congratulated Gannon on advancing to the Super Bowl and asked if he’d be interested in interviewing for the Cardinals’ opening, should it be open after the Super Bowl, according to Gannon.

Gannon told the GM he was interested but didn’t think the call broke any rules.

“[Ossenfort] didn’t say, ‘This is a done deal,'” Gannon told ESPN last week.

“I really, honestly, kind of put it outta the back of my mind.”

Eagles sources told ESPN that around the time Gannon was called by Ossenfort, Philadelphia believed it would retain the defensive coordinator.

Ossenfort was hired Jan. 16 to replace former general manager Steve Keim, during a no-contact period for head-coaching candidates still in the postseason. Days after Philadelphia punched its ticket to Super Bowl LVII with a Jan. 29 win, the general manager called Gannon.

The Cardinals, according to ESPN, didn’t contact Eagles general manager Howie Roseman about having intentions to interview Gannon until the Friday before the Super Bowl, on Feb. 10.

ESPN’s sources said that Fangio was Philadelphia’s top choice to replace Gannon if he were hired away.

But the Miami Dolphins were already mapping out Fangio as their next defensive coordinator. By the time the Eagles learned of Arizona’s intentions to interview Gannon, Fangio had already committed to join the Dolphins.

On the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, it was reported the Cardinals were expected to interview Gannon the next day. By that time, word was already traveling through NFL circles that Gannon and the Cardinals had made more in-roads than anyone had let on, according to league sources.

Gannon denied this last week, calling it “100% false” that he was far down the line with the Cardinals by Sunday. When told the Eagles felt he wasn’t forthcoming, Gannon said he didn’t have a response.

“Howie approached me on Sunday night after the (Super Bowl) and said, ‘Hey, you’re going to stay here. You’re not flying back with us. You’re going to interview for this job,’” Gannon said when he was hired. “That’s when I clicked this mindset (of becoming the Cardinals coach) in.”

Fangio this year has hinted that he would have considered staying in Philadelphia had the timing been right.

“That’s possible,” Fangio said in June. “But I won’t — I’ll neither confirm nor deny it.”

Arizona and Philadelphia announced on April 27, just as the NFL Draft began, that they agreed to resolve the issue by swapping third-round choices in 2023. Arizona sent its No. 66 pick to Philadelphia and received the Eagles’ 94th pick, as well as Philly’s 2024 fifth-rounder.

Ossenfort owned the mistake on his part, while Roseman has since downplayed the incident.

Philadelphia replaced Gannon with Sean Desai, but the results have been less-than-stellar. The Eagles adjusted Desai’s duties in mid-December and subbed in senior defensive assistant Matt Patricia as play-caller.

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