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January 18, 2022

Why is Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon such a hot head coaching candidate?

The Birds assistant is interviewing with the Broncos, Texans and Vikings this week

The Eagles saw their season end in the first round of the playoffs Sunday afternoon, with all three phases looking positively dreadful against the veteran led Buccaneers. This of course included the defense, which played soft and timid, allowing Tom Brady to carve it up for 31 unanswered points. 

While the Birds' D was certainly a strength for most of the season, it seems a little surprising, frankly, that their defensive coordinator — after just one year at the helm — has not one, not two, but three high profile head coaching interviews this week.

The interest makes Gannon seem like a defensive mastermind. And in some ways, maybe he is. After all, he was able to help transform a unit that was being completely dominated every week (and with a 2-5 record) into a playoff team that allowed just 16.6 points and 288.8 yards per game from Weeks 8 through 17 (when the Eagles were 7-2). Those numbers would be the first and second best in the NFL respectively this season, extrapolated over a full 17 games.

However, their opponents over that span would wind up a combined 54-98-1 in 2021, which certainly undercuts the success Gannon had against these bad offenses led by middling and often backup quarterbacks.

In all, here's a look at how the defense fared through the Eagles full regular season slate:

Yards allowed328.810th
 PPG allowed22.618th
Defensive DVOA4.7%25th
Red zone score %66.7%28th
Opp. third down %42.9%23rd
Yards/Play allowed5.2 8th
Blitz %16.4%31st

We could go on and on with statistics like these — most of which are probably not arguments in his favor — and say it is probably a little early for Gannon to be a head coach. His rather short resume includes assistant gigs with the Colts, Vikings, Titans and Falcons. But that doesn't tell the full story.

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He is well-liked in the locker room and was able to lead a team to improve quite a bit over the course of a long NFL season. That counts for something.

Edwards was one of a handful of players who broke out in 2021, along with Javon Hargraves, Josh Sweat and others. Edwards said Monday that Gannon "has a lot of respect around here."

And that apparently includes Fletcher Cox as well. The Eagles' former All-Pro defensive tackle called out his coordinator earlier in the season, frustrated with the way he was being used and the lack of aggression on the defensive side of the ball overall. But even Cox had nothing but love for the coach they call "JG" in his season-ending press conference.

“I went and talked to JG,” he said Monday. “That’s the only way two men can handle situations, you go talk to each other and you figure it out. We both figured it out. We both put the defense in the best positions to win. I think it allowed — the way we kind of moved some things around — it allowed the good players to get a lot of one-on-ones and just be disruptive. It was really fun playing.”

He clearly has the same kind of respect around the league too, and with the entire NFL trying to find the next young superstar coach, Gannon is getting his due this week. We'll see if it leads to a job, or if he will get a chance to try and finish what he started with an up and coming defense in Philadelphia.

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