Well, we knew these conversations would begin again at some point. Last offseason, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon saw his name enter conversations as debate waged over whether or not the attention he was getting as ‘an NFL head coach in waiting’ had been earned.
This season, his star continued to rise as he led one of pro football’s premier defenses to newer heights. Some have criticized his scheme and style of playcalling. Others, most of us at Inside The Iggles included, have stood by the theory that much of the criticism he has endured has been unfounded and unnecessary.
What happened since then? You don’t have to ponder that one long. The question was rhetorical, and we intended to answer it immediately after its introduction.
Under J.G.’s watch, two members earned Pro Bowl nods, Darius Slay and Haason Reddick. Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Josh Sweat were all named alternates. This came after three members of his defensive unit wound up on the Pro Bowl roster to conclude the 2021 season (Darius Slay, Javon Hargrave, and Josh Sweat).
Jonathan Gannon’s name is again earning some buzz as teams search for head coaches. The same is true for offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. Philly could wind up replacing both this offseason. Fortunately, they’ll have some options if they choose to do so.
Here are three candidates worthy of assuming the role of Eagles defensive coordinator if Jonathan Gannon gets hired elsewhere.
Jonathan Gannon’s defense finished first versus the pass. They also set a team record for sacks with 70. The million-dollar question is this.
In an offensive-driven league, would any of the current teams looking for head coaches venture towards hiring one of the game’s bright young defensive minds?
If they steer in that direction, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator position will be among the NFL’s most attractive job openings. Here are a couple of names the Birds are no doubt tossing around.
Vic Fangio (the desired choice of many but a longshot)
We wouldn’t go so far as to label him the father of modern defense or something corny like that, but much of what you see around pro football’s landscape from a defensive standpoint has some of Vic Fangio’s fingerprints all over it.
Some have followed the blueprint well (Gannon). Others have managed to make a good thing worse, Ed Donatell, the Minnesota Vikings DC, for instance.
Fangio would be the dream hire for some. It seems unlikely however, mainly because Philly typically follows another script.
Dennard Wilson, Eagles defensive passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach
If you haven’t learned anything about Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie and vice president/general manager Howie Roseman yet, you should have learned this. They don’t hire a ton of ‘retread’ coaches. They like the new guys, and they like to promote from within.
We’re throwing Dennard Wilson‘s name on this list as the best option to replace Gannon. His players love him. So do his colleagues. Just look at the job he has done with Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Epps, and undrafted rookie Reed Blankenship among others.
Tracy Rocker, defensive line coach
We’re throwing Tracy Rocker‘s name on this list, not because his name is one that we keep hearing. We’re throwing him on the list because of Fletcher Cox’s resurgence, Milton Williams’ leap from year one to year two, and Brandon Graham’s awe-inspiring revenge tour.
Also, who could forget the manner in which he got Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh ready to play a football game in a manner of days after their mid-season additions?
We’re convinced that Tracy Rocker is one of the best assistants that no one talks about. Jordan Davis is going to be a monster. You just wait and see.
Nick Rallis, linebackers coach
Whenever conversations about Jonathan Gannon’s potential exit come up, it doesn’t matter who you speak to. Nick Rallis’ name comes up at some point during the conversation when potential replacements are mentioned.
This is his second season as Philadelphia’s linebackers coach, and 2022 was a big one for him as he helped coach T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, and Haason Reddick to new heights. Yep, Nick Rallis is truly a defensive coordinator in waiting.