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August 29, 2023

Clancy: Jonathan Gannon is going to be a one-and-done head coach

The Arizona Cardinals are in tank mode. New head coach and former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is already a lame duck, writes Shamus Clancy.

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Jonathan-Gannon-Eagles-Cardinals Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

Arizona Cardinals head coach and former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.

The Jonathan Gannon era in Arizona has gotten off to an unceremonious start even before he's reached Week 1.

First came the Cardinals' admission that they violated the NFL's tampering rules when contacting Gannon between the Eagles' NFC Championship Game win and the Super Bowl. Gannon, Philly's former defensive coordinator, then interviewed with the Cardinals the day following the team's Super Bowl loss to Kansas City where his defense surrendered 38 points and allowed the Chiefs to score on every second-half drive.

Shortly before the start of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Eagles and Cardinals settled on a trade to get through this tampering probe, as Arizona dealt the 66th pick to the Eagles for the 94th pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick.

That's a nice pickup, as it allowed the Eagles to draft Sydney Brown, who could be a first-year starter at safety, but the true, championship-defining damage had already been done.

Every single second that Gannon spent preparing for his interview with the Cardinals was one fewer moment where he was studying how to beat Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. Every coach at any level dreams of being an NFL head coach one day, but there should be an innate sense of duty to finish up a job on the highest possible note, to go down in history for a stellar performance that launches you to the next stratosphere of the coaching world.

Gannon had been much maligned in Philadelphia for his unwillingness to blitz and his desire to allow short, quick throws to quarterbacks. He could've shed that label swiftly and gone down as a Philly favorite. Allowing 14 total points at home in two playoff games and then slaying the best QB in the league and the Eagles' former head coach himself? His credibility in this city would've been intact, especially after his pre-49ers game claim that the Eagles would "f*****g gut" San Francisco.

The Philadelphia chapter of Gannon's career is done, but it looks like his Arizona one might be over before it's truly begun in earnest.

Entrenched quarterback Kyler Murray will begin the season on the PUP list and won't be eligible to practice until early October. It appeared that journeyman QB Colt McCoy would be Arizona's Week 1 starter, but the Cardinals surprisingly cut McCoy on Monday. They are now left with newly acquired QB Joshua Dobbs and fifth-round rookie Clayton Tune. 

Is Sam Hinkie the Cardinals' shadow GM? Because this has "tank" written all over it. Gannon is a lame-duck head coach and placeholder for a franchise that's already looking ahead to 2024.

The Cardinals may be the worst team in the NFL in 2023. They also own the first-round pick of the Texans, who will also be in contention for the league's worst record. There's a scenario where Arizona has the first two picks in next April's draft and lands prized USC QB Caleb Williams and all-world Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

You're really going to stick with an iffy defense-first coach if gifted the NFL's next great QB-WR duo? I think not. That's Lincoln Riley's music or a job for next winter's hotshot play-caller entering the head coaching market.

Gannon is a tank commander. He might not have been the long-term answer for a sad Cardinals franchise anyway, but the writing is already on the wall.

The Eagles host Gannon in the Cardinals in Week 17 on New Year's Eve. I'd imagine Gannon receives some venom from Eagles fans at the Linc. I'm setting the over/under on him getting fired this season at the ball dropping at midnight.

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