TEMPE, Ariz. — Jonathan Gannon’s journey to become the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals began long before general manager Monti Ossenfort picked him up at his hotel around 11 am Monday morning to take Gannon to the Cardinals headquarters in Tempe to start. of what turned into a two-day interview.
It started about a year ago and initially had nothing to do with Gannon, who has been the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator for the past two seasons.
Ossenfort was still the Tennessee Titans’ director of player personnel when he went through general manager interviews during last year’s hiring cycle. He recalled being asked who he would interview for a head coaching job, and Ossenfort listed a few names. But he didn’t know any of the trainers he mentioned, they were just good trainers. Last summer, Ossenfort decided to change that. He began reaching out to assistants around the league who he believed had head coaching potential to meet them, talk a little soccer and discuss their visions if they ever became head coaches.
“I had a lot of great conversations,” Ossenfort said Thursday.
One of them was with Gannon.
When Ossenfort was named the Cardinals’ general manager on January 16, his first assignment was to lead the search for a head coach to replace Kliff Kingsbury, who had been fired a week earlier. Thanks to Ossenfort’s work last summer, Gannon was one of the names on the GM’s list, and this time he really knew the men on it.
However, Ossenfort’s plan to interview Gannon hit a snag. The window for interviewing coaches in the playoffs had already closed when Ossenfort was hired, meaning the Cardinals would have to wait until Gannon’s Eagles were eliminated.
So the Cardinals waited. And he waited. The Eagles kept winning, advancing to Super Bowl LVII, which was to be played, coincidentally, at the Cardinals’ home field at State Farm Stadium, and Philadelphia was to use the Arizona facility all week.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals interviewed nine other candidates.
Gannon’s road to the Cardinals began, in earnest, before the Eagles lost in the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman approached Gannon the morning of the Super Bowl and asked if he knew the Cardinals were interested in interviewing him. Gannon was not. Roseman said they would talk more about it after the game.
After the game, Roseman approached Gannon again with some news: He wouldn’t be back with the team in the morning because he had an interview the next day with the Cardinals. That night, Gannon said he retreated to his hotel room and watched video of the game where his defense gave up a season-high 38 points.
Once he found out about the interview, Gannon had to quickly change his approach. He had to compartmentalize the Super Bowl loss and move on to his interview.
“That’s when I clicked into that mindset and said, ‘Okay, let me stop. I have to recover a little bit because I was obviously down from the game, and take a shower, work out and go in there and shoot your gun,’” Gannon said. “So that’s what I did.”
Fortunately for Gannon, he had suitable interview clothes because of the ones he wore during the Eagles’ flight to Arizona.
With the Eagles buses leaving the team hotel at 10 a.m. Monday and Ossenfort scheduled to pick up Gannon about an hour later, Gannon had the morning to collect his thoughts and write some notes.
“Obviously I had prepared for that opportunity for a long time,” Gannon said. “And basically I didn’t have a book. I didn’t have a paper.
“I had a note card. I showed [Cardinals owner] Miguel [Bidwill] my Super Bowl call sheet and said, ‘This is how I do things. I write it by hand. And finally we talked about what was in my brain and what was in my heart.”
Gannon was scheduled to fly back to Philadelphia at 6:30 p.m. Monday night, but was asked if he had enough clothes to spend the night again. He did, and it led to him, Bidwill and Ossenfort going to dinner on Monday before talking more on Tuesday.
“When I came here and was interviewed, I was very open-minded and used the interview to explain my vision and really wanted to see if my vision for running a team matched that of Michael and Monti,” Gannon said. “And he did it.”
When he finally flew back to Philadelphia on Tuesday, he was the Cardinals’ head coach.
But her chaotic week wasn’t over yet.
He spent Tuesday night at home before flying back to Arizona on Wednesday with his wife, Gina; daughter, Lola; and two sons, Rocco and Angelo.
“Back and forth,” Gannon said. “Back and forth.”
All of that led up to the press conference on Thursday morning. He sat at a table in the Cardinals’ team meeting room between Bidwill and Ossenfort and was introduced as the Cardinals’ 11th head coach since moving to Arizona in 1988.
“The last four or five days have been very normal for me,” Gannon said. “You have to adapt as things come to your doorstep and it has been exciting. Obviously, I have a lot of energy and excitement that went into the game and then I lost that game and then I stayed the night here, not knowing that I would stay the night and interview for a head coaching job.
“But you take it all in stride and do the best you can. And I will say that it was a fun 48 hours. I’ll say it because I enjoyed it.”