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January 26, 2022

Eytan Shander: Jonathan Gannon's ascension makes a mockery of the NFL's hiring system

Opinion Eagles
Gannon-Sirianni-Eagles_012622 Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni talks with defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon during practice.

This is an X-File.

Nothing personal, but what exactly did Johnathan Gannon do to warrant all this love as a head coaching candidate? He was closer to not doing anything this year than actually impacting a game, especially in-game. The defense played well when players – All-Pro level players – were making plays.

Defensive linemen wore down opposing offensive linemen and got to inferior quarterbacks.

Darius Slay was a ball hawk and found his way to the football like a magnet.

Gannon didn’t do anything to even have to put these guys in different positions, it was just a matter of having better players than the opposition – mainly down the stretch. I am as excited about this season and the future of this young team as you are. But when a guy doesn’t do a damn thing, then is the subject of multiple reports naming him the favorite for a bigger job, I have questions.

There were few adjustments made and we saw it was far too easy for opposing QBs to throw the football. The results only changed when the level of competition dropped. It’s almost as if Gannon was getting in the way at the start of the season, only to watch his (better) players take on weaker opponents down the stretch.

We were mostly all OK with this being a tale of two seasons – ugly at the start only to be saved by a second-half run. But now we have reports of Gannon among the hottest candidates to run a football team next season, with his main strength being pointed to that he "gets along with players." So, he’s not Chip Kelly, great.

How about putting together a game plan that actively shuts down a team on its way to the playoffs? How about putting players in an actual position to make plays, instead of hiding under a bed of blankets and hoping the problem goes away? What did he actually do, on the field, to warrant this interest from multiple teams? What did he do that special teams coordinator Michael Clay didn't?

Clay led one of the league’s better Special Teams units — Jalen Reagor's punt returns notwithstanding — which saw way more consistent play at the start of the year, when everything else was going to hell and back. It’s easy to skip over Clay’s impact on the unit because “he has a lot of talent” there. Well… multiply that by 100 for Gannon.

Are we led to believe that Mike Clay “doesn’t get along” with players or can’t relate to them? He played linebacker at Oregon and also worked his way up doing the NFL coaching version of odd jobs. If we're basing it on how their units performed and their experience — each has spent just one year as a coordinator — there is absolutely zero reason why Gannon would get a look at a head coaching position and Clay would not.

We need Mulder and Scully on this one. (I’m only half-way through Season 7, so I don’t know if they are even still alive – maybe Xzibit’s character in the movie?)

The vapid justifications of “players like him” and “he’s a good guy” surrounding Gannon’s candidacy for a head coaching position is why the Rooney Rule exists. It’s also why it continues to fail coaches in the NFL.

There has to be some middle ground between the old adage of “it shouldn’t take Black people to hire Black people” and having an unqualified candidate fast-tracked after one year of suspicious coaching (at best). We can’t honestly think that any person of color looking to move up the ranks of the coaching ladder will even get a fair shot – let alone the job itself.

This is what’s lost in translation with people who don’t understand the fundamental need for change in the hiring process – as difficult as that may be with private industry. The NFL answers to a lot of people in the public and this may simply go away – or be swept under the rug – but it’s not dying for good.

It’s a real problem.

Maybe there’s more job security in sticking with Andy Reid or Bruce Arians as their right hand man rather than taking a job where you are destined to fail. Just ask David Culley. It’s not just, "Why didn’t X guy take a job or get hired?" It’s also a matter of how long that coach will be there.

A team going out of its way to hire some young prodigy who barely did anything is akin to any talent in your industry – be it sports talk radio or a foreman on a job site – being fast-tracked to the top. It’s nauseating no matter how nice of a person it is who gets it.

Fans may rejoice at the idea that a team is whisking Gannon away as some hot new coaching candidate, but this makes a full-on mockery of the system. It further prevents qualified coaches from taking a risk in the first place. It’s a message – as warped and bizarre as it appears.

Your skin color shouldn't prevent you from being hired, or fired if if you fail at your job. Accountability should be base on what we see on the field, for better or worse. 


Chiefs even, 49ers +10.5 (7-point Teaser -140)

We are taking a huge risk teasing a road dog in San Francisco, but it gets us down to the money line on the Chiefs. Normally we would just play the Rams at -3.5, but the Niners have a dominating streak over LA. Kansas City wins games at home, but they have struggled with larger numbers. This bet allows us to move through two key numbers – 7 and 10 – with the Niners and drop the Chiefs through 3 – another key number. It’s worth the risk of -140 which is a rare bet to take, but the odds are working in our favor that the Chiefs win this game against the Bengals and the Niners aren’t blown out by the Rams.

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.)

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