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Broncos head coach candidate: Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator

The Denver Broncos will be setting up interviews this week. We don’t have a list yet, but we’re running through as many candidates as possible.

NFL: JAN 09 Cowboys at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A bit of an upstart name here, Jonathan Gannon first started coaching as a student assistant and graduate assistant at Louisville under Bobby Petrino from 2003-2006. Gannon assisted with game planning and scouting for Petrino’s successful squads but he also excelled in coaching his teammates (while he was there, Louisville had three defensive backs drafted). Gannon impressed Petrino so much that he brought Gannon with him to Atlanta when he was hired to coach the Falcons.

Gannon served as an assistant defensive coach and quality control coach for Atlanta that season before Petrino’s departure. Gannon worked under Mike Zimmer in Atlanta for that year, working primarily with the defensive backs. There, Atlanta ranked 22nd in DVOA versus the pass. From there, Gannon served as a scout for the St. Louis Rams from 2009-2011 under General Manager Billy Devaney. The Rams drafted a couple of notable defensive players in James Laurinaitis and Robert Quinn, but it’s tough to really say how much input (if any) Gannon had.

After that stint into scouting, Gannon got another shot at coaching when he took a job as a Defensive Quality Control coach under Mike Munchak’s Tennessee Titans in 2012. In Tennessee, Gannon worked with players like Jason McCourty, Akeem Ayers, Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, and Alterraun Verner. The Titans’ defense ranked 25th and 19th in Defensive DVOA while he was there. After working there for two years, Gannon reunited with Mike Zimmer in Minnesota as his Assistant Defensive Backs coach.

While with the Vikings, Gannon coached players like Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn, Andrew Sendejo, Trae Waynes, Anthony Harris, Terence Newman, Jayron Kearse, and Mackensie Alexander. Minnesota rose from 21st in DVOA versus the pass to 11th, then 6th, then 2nd while Gannon was with the Vikings. Smith and Rhodes made the Pro Bowl each made several Pro Bowls while under Gannon.

Shortly after, Gannon relied on a connection through Mike Zimmer and Dallas and was hired by Frank Reich (and Matt Eberflus) to be their cornerbacks coach. After a year, Gannon became the co-Defensive Backs coach with Alan Williams. In Indianapolis, Gannon coached and helped develop some notable corners like Kenny Moore, Nate Hairston, and Rock Ya-Sin. He also helped players like Pierre Desir and Xavier Rhodes have career years while in Indianapolis. While he was with the Colts, their DVOA against the pass rose from 15th to 8th before he was hired to be the Defensive Coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles under Nick Sirianni this past offseason.

Gannon’s defense with the Eagles got off to a very rough start. Gannon’s job was being called for quickly in Philadelphia, and he drew the ire of some very prominent defensive players like Fletcher Cox. Most notably, Gannon made the comment he “doesn’t have a scheme” which certainly led to some snide comments from fans. After a midseason turnaround, the Eagles’ defense under Gannon helped the team clinch a playoff berth. Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox have enjoyed great years under him this season, and they currently 16th in Defensive DVOA.

It all sounds like Gannon is an up-and-coming coach. However, I would be very, very wary of him as the next Head Coach of the Broncos. For starters, he is very closely tied to several members of the previous coaching staff. He and Tom McMahon worked together under Petrino. While Gannon was a scout with the Rams, Pat Shurmur was their Offensive Coordinator. He also worked with Shurmur again in Minnesota. Mike Munchak hired him in Tennessee. To drive it further in, he’s childhood friends with Brandon Staley, Vic Fangio’s most notable disciple. That would worry me, especially with Paton letting the next coach choose the fates of the rest of Fangio’s staff.

I’m also not quite sold on Gannon’s success with the Eagles just yet. Their defensive fix at the mid-point also came at a time when they played a very easy schedule. Since Week 7, the Eagles faced the quarterback gauntlet of Jared Goff, Justin Herbert (who gashed them), Teddy Bridgewater, Trevor Siemian, Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson, Garrett Gilbert, Mike Glennon, Jake Fromm, Taylor Heinecke, and then a Week 18 game against Dak where he threw for five touchdowns. Early on in the season, Dak, Mahomes, Brady, and Carr threw all over their defense.

There’s something to be said about needing time to gel in a new scheme, but Gannon feels too unproven as of yet for me to buy him as a legit candidate. That, plus his rather close ties to the previous coaching staff gives me pause about him being the next Broncos’ Head Coach.

Potential Offensive Coordinator hires: Brian Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach; Jemal Singleton, Philadelphia Eagles Running Backs Coach/Assistant Head Coach; Drew Petzing, Cleveland Browns Tight Ends Coach

Potential Defensive Coordinator hires: Jerry Gray, Green Bay Packers Defensive Backs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator; Jeff Howard, Cleveland Browns Defensive Backs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator; George Edwards, Dallas Cowboys Senior Defensive Assistant


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