After posting league-average results in 2021, Jonathan Gannon’s Philadelphia Eagles defense has taken a significant leap forward this season. Gannon was a hot name on last year’s NFL head coaching circuit, and his unit’s achievements in 2022 mean he’ll be a highly coveted candidate again this time.
Jonathan Gannon in Line To Become an NFL Head Coach
The Eagles have been the most impressive team in the league this year, and that success will likely lead to a brain drain from Philadelphia’s staff. Not only will Gannon garner interviews once the Eagles’ season is over, but offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is also expected to be of interest to nearly every team with a head coaching vacancy.
Last offseason, Gannon interviewed for the top job with the Vikings, Broncos, and Texans. Denver already has another HC opening, while Houston could potentially part ways with Lovie Smith. The Broncos could look Gannon’s way again, as could the Texans, especially if general manager Nick Caserio is allowed to hire his third head coach in as many years.
Gannon is in a prime position to land a head coaching position, but it’s not necessarily because of his specific scheme. The 39-year-old borrows various aspects of multiple defensive systems instead of pigeonholing players into his structure. That level of malleability is precisely what general managers and ownership groups should be looking for.
“I don’t have a scheme,” Gannon said in 2021. “Our scheme should be to put our 11 guys on the field in the best position possible to succeed.”
Willing to steal good ideas no matter where they come from, Gannon is one of the more open-minded coaches in the NFL. That’s a theme that runs through Philadelphia’s staff on both sides of the ball, and it allows the Eagles to tailor their game plans to individual opponents.
“2022 offenses look a lot different than they did 10 years ago, five years ago,” Gannon said in August. “So, I never wanted to get into a meeting on a Monday and say, ‘Well, we did everything right, and they still beat us because of our scheme got us beat or because of the matchups that we knew weren’t advantageous to us, got us beat.’
“So that’s the reason for a little bit of adaptability with scheme week-to-week, as you guys see is what we do is predicated on how we need to win this game. And that goes to, like we’ve talked about, it is our people, their people, people versus people, people versus scheme, scheme versus people, and that’s how we will always evaluate it.”
Gannon can certainly point to his on-field results as evidence of his prowess as a teacher. This year, the Eagles’ defense ranks third in yards per play and fourth in overall efficiency. They’re especially effective against the pass (No. 1 in pass defense DVOA) and can generate pressure without blitzing.
It might be easy to claim Philadelphia’s efforts are directly tied to general manager Howie Roseman acquiring more talented players on the defensive side of the ball. Adding Haason Reddick, Jordan Davis, Kyzir White, James Bradberry, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to their roster undoubtedly helped the Eagles build a more imposing defense.
But Gannon also deserves credit for getting the most out of veteran defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh after they were added midseason. Undrafted rookie free agent safety Reed Blankenship stepped in following an injury to Gardner-Johnson and played well. Players like linebacker T.J. Edwards, edge rusher Josh Sweat, and defensive back Josiah Scott have also taken significant leaps under Gannon’s tutelage.
Gannon’s Salary Expectations and Landing Spots
Most first-time NFL head coaches earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-5 million annually. However, Nick Sirianni — Gannon’s boss — reportedly collects $6-7 million per year from the Eagles. If Gannon generates enough interest around the league, he could potentially match Sirianni’s salary.
We noted that the Texans and Broncos could be interested in Gannon again after interviewing him last year, but the Cardinals stand out as another team that may target Gannon — if they fire Kliff Kingsbury.
Much of the on-field criticism of Kingsbury is rooted in the fact that he runs a somewhat stagnant offensive scheme and doesn’t necessarily adapt his system to his player’s strengths.
Suppose Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill wants to go in a different direction and hire a defensive coach willing to consolidate several different ideas into one comprehensive package. In that case, Gannon could shoot to the top of Arizona’s list.
Gannon’s Coaching History
After suffering a career-ending injury at the University of Louisville, Gannon stuck with the Cardinals for four years as a defensive assistant before entering the NFL ranks.
He worked as a quality control coach for the Falcons and Titans before joining Mike Zimmer’s Vikings staff as an assistant defensive backs coach in 2014. In 2018, Gannon latched on with Frank Reich, Sirianni, and the Colts as Indy’s defensive backs coach for three seasons before taking the Eagles’ DC job.
Gannon’s breadth of experience also includes time as a scout, a résumé item few head coaching candidates can boast. He was a college (2009) and pro (2010-11) scout in Rams general manager Billy Devaney’s front office. That background could help Gannon if he wants to be heavily involved in personnel decisions as a head coach.