TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)Jonathan Gannon said multiple times Thursday that he’s a big believer ”in being where your feet are.”
His two feet have taken him through quite the whirlwind over the past 96 hours.
Gannon was officially introduced as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach on Thursday morning, just four days after the Super Bowl, his final game as defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles lost 38-35 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
The 40-year-old only had a few hours to prepare for his interview with the Cardinals on Monday and his approach to arguably the biggest meeting of his professional life could be instructive about how he’ll approach his first NFL head coaching job.
”I got in here and just let it rip,” Gannon said.
The Cardinals liked what they heard. Now he’s the team’s fourth head coach in seven years.
Gannon will team with new GM Monti Ossenfort, who was hired last month, on a franchise overhaul following a 4-13 season that included an avalanche of injuries and off-the-field distractions. The coach’s hiring comes after a meandering search that took more than a month.
Ossenfort said the Cardinals interviewed about 10 candidates before settling on Gannon.
”Ultimately, our process led us to Jonathan,” Ossenfort said. ”Jonathan’s energy when he entered the room – it was nonstop from the beginning – all the more impressive coming off a Super Bowl just hours before he stepped in our room.”
Gannon and Ossenfort replaced coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired after going 28-37-1 over four seasons, and GM Steve Keim, who took a medical leave of absence late in the season and eventually parted ways with the team.
About a dozen current Cardinals players attended Thursday’s news conference, including quarterback Kyler Murray, who is just six weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. Murray’s presence was appreciated by Gannon, who gave that love right back during his introduction.
”Not too many times you take over a team and you have a franchise quarterback,” Gannon said. ”That was very appealing.”
Gannon’s resume took a bit of a hit during the Super Bowl. The Eagles coughed up a 10-point halftime lead and couldn’t stop Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, even though the MVP wasn’t moving at his best because of a sprained ankle.
That hiccup wasn’t enough to deter Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill, who is trying to find a leader who can help the franchise win its first NFL championship since 1947.
Until the Super Bowl, the Eagles had a stellar defensive season. They had the NFL’s No. 2 defense and led the league with 70 sacks during the regular season – 15 more than any other team.
”We’re going to be adaptable, we’re going to be violent, we’re going to be explosive and we’re going to be smart,” Gannon said.
Gannon inherits a team with some quality players – including Murray, safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson, and linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. The Cardinals also have the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft.
One of Gannon’s most important tasks will be helping Murray reach his full potential. The 25-year-old is expected to miss at least a few games next fall while he recovers from his knee surgery.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection regressed some during his fourth season, though the former No. 1 overall pick was still productive when healthy. He signed a $230.5 million deal during the last offseason that could keep him with the franchise through 2028.
”He’s a problem to defend because of what he can do – a legit problem,” Gannon said. ”He has a very unique skill set and that’s why I’m looking forward to working with him and showing, ‘Hey, this is how defenses are going to try and stop you. This is what you need to be ready for.”’
Gannon’s defensive prowess helped him get the job with the Cardinals, but maybe even more important was his personality. The high-energy coach is in many ways a polar opposite to Kingsbury, who was well-liked but also very low-key.
Gannon said he never has to search for energy because he’s doing what he loves to do.
”Nothing compares to a football game in the world,” Gannon said.
Then he looked down at his wife and three children in the front row.
”Well, maybe seeing your babies born, but that’s about it,” he added grinning.
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