Why are NFL teams salivating over Jonathan Gannon?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 03: Philadelphia Eagles free safety Rodney McLeod (23) celebrates a turnover during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs on October 3, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

It’s a lovely Saturday in Philadelphia. Howie Roseman has devoted himself to Jalen Hurts, the Eagles seem to have a stable base, and the entire league wants to sign Jonathan Gannon as a Head Coach….for some reason presumably. It’s all well and good that the Eagles could be losing a coordinator who hardly came close to expectations this year, but why exactly does the rest of the NFL seem besotted with him, and what aren’t Eagles fans seeing?

Gannon appears to be in the drivers seat to land his first Head Coaching gig, having been interviewed by the Texans, Vikings, and Broncos, impressing each. But what is drawing teams to a coordinator who hardly shined in Philadelphia?

He’s somehow drawn comparisons to Brandon Staley, who coordinated the league’s top defense last year. Gannon’s unit ranked 10th, 9th against the run, and was questionable at best against the pass.

The only thing I can think of is that the numbers are skewing the story. There have been several reporters in the market gushing over the fact that the Eagles held an NFL-high 10 teams to 18 or fewer points. It sounds like such a huge feat…until you zoom in. The teams they held to 18 or fewer points?

Giants x2
WFT x2

Brilliant. I’d like to think any defense on its day could do that job. WFT, for instance, only scored more than 18 points 7 times all season. The Broncos scored 18+ on 8 occasions along with the Jets and Panthers. Atlanta barely managed it 9, and the Giants managed it only 6.

It’s not like the Eagles shut down high-powered offenses and became this absolute juggernaut. They just contained offenses that were unable to do much of anything anyway.

Against strong quarterbacks, however, things get very interesting. The Eagles gave up a league-worst 69.4% completion percentage this year, and ranked 31st in sacks. It’s very clear that the lack of pass-rush correlates with a high completion percentage.

The Eagles allowed eight quarterbacks to amass a passer-rating over 100. Would you like to guess what caliber of QB was unable to do so against this defense?

Matt Ryan
Sam Darnold
Jared Goff
Teddy Bridgewater
Trevor Seimian
Daniel Jones
Zach Wilson
Garrett Gilbert
Mike Glennon/Jake Fromm

Mind-blowing, right?

You can make the argument that the Eagles lacked talent on defense. The EDGE position was a mess outside of Josh Sweat, the linebacker spot has been left to rot by the front office, allowing QB’s a free pass over the middle, and outside of Darius Slay’s resurgence to becoming a Pro-Bowl player and the rise of Avonte Maddox, the secondary often lacked bodies, especially at Safety.

Could Gannon do more if he had a competent linebacker corps with a three-down MIKE, an actual pass-rush that wasn’t relying on whatever a ‘Ryan Kerrigan’ is? Probably, but again, so could anyone. The real issue Eagles fans had with Gannon was the fact that nothing changed.

Jonathan Gannon didn’t really make any valid adjustments to his scheme over the course of the year. The Eagles were beaten in the same ways over and over again. Sure, they didn’t let up those big rainbow passes like they used to, but the days of getting endless pressure on a QB appeared to be over.

The linebackers were picked on by opposing quarterbacks and outside of a few fake-blitzer looks inspired by Mike Zimmer, it was a pretty vanilla defense that once again left its corners 8-yards off the line of scrimmage and expected them to work miracles. The good news is that the trio of Nelson, Slay, and Maddox did exactly that as they’re far better than Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby.

The bottom line is simple. Jonathan Gannon lacked talent on defense and you could argue that with a more prolific unit, he could do better. However, his scheme was rigid, it sucked against mildly competent offenses, and didn’t really look overly dominant against the bad ones, it’s just that those teams were so useles they made the assignments much easier.

So yes, Jonathan Gannon, the DB-Whisperer worked his magic with the secondary. And yes, he may have the upside of a Head Coach. But there is nowhere near enough proof in the pudding for that promotion to be warranted just yet.

I mean, sure, hire him. He’s incredible and deserves the promotion right this second.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire