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What would Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon bring as the Broncos head coach?

I spoke with Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton to find out if Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon would be a good head coach for the Denver Broncos.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles
Is Gannon the right call for Denver?
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Following a disappointing 7-10 finish to the 2021 season, the Denver Broncos are in the market for a new head coach. Second year general manager George Paton has already sent out requests to interview 10 different candidates, some more familiar than others. Few candidates are more familiar than the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannong, who spent three years as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Minnesota Vikings during Paton’s tenure there as the assistant GM.

To get a better grasp of what Gannon could offer the Broncos as a head coach, I reached out to Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton.

1st and 10

We spoke about Gannon’s candidacy the last time we spoke as he’s been linked to the Broncos since George Paton’s initial “short list” of Fangio replacements was dropped in October. This is what you said:

As for Jonathan Gannon, well, it’s hard not to be a skeptic. You might’ve seen the stat posted by ESPN’s Tim McManus that six quarterbacks completed over 80% of their passes in games between 1950 and 2020 … and five quarterbacks have accomplished that feat in only NINE GAMES THIS YEAR. That’s just insane.

Gannon’s defense has clearly made life way too easy on opposing quarterbacks. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator really believes in eliminating big plays and forcing offenses to methodically drive down the field. This approach has too often been taken to an extreme, though, with the Eagles playing so soft and allowing quarterbacks to take what they want underneath. Gannon made some adjustments that worked against Jared Goff in Week 8 but his tweaks did not work in Week 9.

A film review posted at BGN showed that Gannon’s defense simply looks … uncoordinated. Out of sync. One would think the coordinator deserves blame for that being the case.

At the same time, the aforementioned Roseman deserves blame for this defense not being better. He invested the seventh most cash into a unit that’s been able to stop some bad quarterbacks but hardly makes good quarterbacks break into a sweat. The Eagles don’t really have any true difference-makers on the defensive side of the ball. Javon Hargrave had an All-Pro start to the season but he’s been held without a sack in his last four games, possibly in part due to playing through injury. Fletcher Cox isn’t the elite player he used to be. And so on.

Has he shown notable growth since week 10?

Gowton: Hard to say.

The numbers look good. Excluding a Week 18 game where the Eagles rested all of their starters, Philly allowed just 16.6 points in their last seven outings. For context, the New England Patriots allowed the fewest offensive points per game in 2021 at 16.2.

But one would be remiss not to mention the quarterbacks the Eagles played during that stretch. Far from a murderer’s row:

Teddy BridgewaterTrevor SiemianDaniel JonesZach WilsonGarrett GilbertJake Fromm/Mike GlennonTaylor Heinicke

Gannon deserves some credit for shutting those guys down. One can’t just assume that ANY defensive coordinator would’ve had the same level of success.

But we’ve yet to see the Eagles’ defense hold up against a playoff-caliber quarterback. I stress the phrase “hold up” there. It’s not even like anyone is realistically asking Gannon to make good quarterbacks look pathetic. Holding them to a merely mediocre game would be a start.

2nd and 12

Knowing what you know about the Broncos’ talent on defense, do you believe a Gannon system could be a good fit to maximize their talents?

Gowton: One thing that’s stuck out about Gannon is his track record with cornerbacks. Colts GM Chris Ballard really praised Gannon for Xavier Rhodes’ resurgence with Indy in 2020 after the veteran defender had been cut by the Minnesota Vikings. Darius Slay experienced a similar bounce-back season, going from being a disappointment last year to a Pro Bowl selection in 2021.

So, perhaps Gannon could help Kyle Fuller get back on track? Patrick Surtain II, who seems pretty promising, could also benefit.

There’s thought in Philly that, if Gannon remains the Eagles’ DC, they’ll need to make more investments at linebacker and safety. Not only because the Birds generally need more talent at those spots but because they’ve been positions of emphasis for the defensive systems (see: Colts, Vikings) that Gannon has experience with. So, the Broncos might find themselves in a similar boat, though having Justin Simmons in place seems like a good start.

3rd and 15

Unlike most of the candidates the Broncos are speaking to, Gannon’s already worked with George Paton when both were members of the Minnesota Vikings. Does that strike you as something that should give Gannon a leg up in the interview process?

Gowton: Four years of overlap in Minny definitely seems notable. NFL teams love familiarity.

I also tend to think Gannon will interview well. He comes off as a bright guy. Well-spoken and personable.

4th and 8

Paton really emphasized leadership during his press conference on Monday. Gannon’s resume is pretty short, does he strike you as someone who can step in as a head coach and lead an NFL team?

Gowton: I don’t see why not. Piggy-backing off my last answer, I don’t think he would be an embarrassment the way that Joe Judge turned out to be.

Gannon has some fire to him and not in an insincere way, as far as I can tell. He brings energy to the table.

I guess it could be concerning how Fletcher Cox was openly expressing disdain for his role in Gannon’s defense earlier this year. But that’s seemed to subside. And it might not be as much of a reflection on Gannon’s leadership ability as much as Cox lacking accountability for some of his own issues.

Extra Point

Do you think Jonathan Gannon would be a good head coach for the Denver Broncos?

Gowton: Maybe. I don’t think teams should be rushing to hire him just yet.

And I’m not saying that as someone who desperately wants the Eagles to keep him. I’d actually be OK with him leaving if it means Philly can potentially upgrade to a more proven defensive coordinator, such as Vic Fangio (ever head of him?) or Mike Zimmer or Brian Flores.

I just think Gannon has more to prove — especially in terms of his defense holding up against better quarterbacks — before teams should feel fully confident hiring him. At just 39 years old, he could benefit from more seasoning.


Do you want the Broncos to hire Jonathan Gannon as their next head coach?

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