The Search Continues For A Single Reason To Believe In Jonathan Gannon
1:31 PM EDT on September 7, 2023
The Arizona Cardinals haven't yet played a regular-season game, but nonetheless a Level 3 Tomsula Alert has been issued for head coach Jonathan Gannon. Everything about this man's public-facing persona and his team's situation suggest that he is in over his head. Perhaps the reason why the punishment for the Cardinals' tampering was so mild was because the NFL believed there was no coup orchestrated here.
The initial meeting with the Cardinals' players made Gannon seem like a doofus, but first impressions can be awkward. The video of his motivational speech involving gut fires and public transportation also did not inspire any confidence, but to be fair, a coach's success or failure cannot be projected based off a couple of clips online. That said, you can still glean useful insights. After Nathaniel Hackett's atrocious tenure as head coach of the Denver Broncos, I watched this year's Hard Knocks on the New York Jets to learn that this man loved Austin Powers in Goldmember, the worst of the three Austin Powers movies, and incorporated it into his team meetings. Instead of referring to it as the red zone, it was the "gold zone." Get it? Hackett was also exceptionally skilled at kissing Aaron Rodgers's ass, not really as a players' coach but as a sycophant. It all clicked. Priors were confirmed.
In an effort to provide more proof beyond out-of-context clips—although it should be noted that these are clips released by the Arizona Cardinals because they think it makes Gannon look good—let's look at the deeply uninspiring personnel decisions. With Kyler Murray still recovering from a torn ACL, Gannon went as long as he could before selecting a starting quarterback for Week 1, choosing between fifth-round rookie Clayton Tune and Joshua Dobbs, because Colt McCoy was released. Ah, it's Dobbs. Great. The Washington Commanders will be scrambling to study his film now. If I want to be generous, the majority of the blame for some unappealing QB options can be assigned to new GM Monti Ossenfort and his predecessor Steve Keim.
And yet, after recapping all extant evidence, it is time to submit this feature from The Athletic, in which Gannon blames himself for the Eagles' loss in Super Bowl 57—it's presented as an example of his candor but also doesn't totally make sense—and shares new workplace experiences that present him as a big dope:
Gannon’s also had to learn on the job, and has no problem admitting it. After he ripped into a player during a meeting this summer, one of his assistants pulled him aside afterward, telling him he crossed the line. Gannon thought about it for a minute, then realized the assistant was right. He apologized to the player. “I still love ya,” he told him, “but I was pissed at ya. This isn’t acceptable.”
He bungled one of his early team meetings, admitting to his staff later, “that was honestly kind of a debacle.” The agenda was the team’s practice schedule, broken down by the minute, and after it was over, Gannon realized he should’ve had the Cardinals’ director of performance, Shea Thompson, walk the players through the whys of each session, not him.
He knew it. But Thompson knew it better.
The author of that feature, Zak Keefer, is realistic about the expectations for Gannon. With a still-recovering Murray, a lackluster roster, and a new GM/coach combo, the Cardinals are deliberately designed for a rebuild, and Gannon is the poor sap that'll eat the losses. He says he's "only getting one shot" and doesn't "expect to lose," because of course that's what you say in that situation. Who expects to lose? Urban Meyer didn't expect to lose either! And then he ended up at his own steakhouse, treating a woman like a hand puppet.
It would be rude and presumptuous to issue a verdict on Jonathan Gannon before the first game—that's why it is merely a Tomsula Alert—but man, this guy might be in for a shock. He's surely experienced defeat in his football career, but it's different as a head coach. They really have to wear those losses. I'm a little concerned about what's coming Gannon's way, and whether he's ready to handle it.