Top Eagles options for replacing Jonathan Gannon as defensive coordinator

Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports) /

Well, now-former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is gone. According to several well-known voices, including NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Arizona Cardinals are finalizing their deal to make him the team’s next head coach. The news comes just two weeks after he said he wasn’t going anywhere and less than 48 hours after he was embarrassed by the Kansas City Chiefs offensive staff on the grandest stage in all of football, Super Bowl Sunday.

There are obviously better headlines that can come out of this, but here is one of the most obvious (and probably the pettiest). Despite some notable accomplishments with the Eagles’ defense this past season, fans and members of the media are still split on how they view him. There’s still some banter about how good of a job he did, but here’s where we may agree.

He may never be forgiven as one of the goats of Philly’s Super Bowl LVII loss (notice we didn’t say G.O.A.T.), and some are still scratching their heads about what he ever did to prove himself worthy of being a head coach in the first place.

Oh well. That isn’t Philly’s problem anymore. The Birds have bigger fish to fry, namely replacing their offensive and defensive coordinator. We’ve discussed the best options for replacing Steichen. Let’s discuss the other side of the ball now.

Here are the best options the Eagles have for replacing Jonathan Gannon.

Reports surfaced recently that the Eagles would make a big push to land Vic Fangio as their defensive coordinator if Gannon landed elsewhere. He had been a consultant to the team all season. He was also officially signed to a two-week contract before Super Bowl LVII to help Philly prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense. That did a ton of good, huh?

The Fangio play was taken off of the table as he officially signed on to be the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator. With that being said, the Eagles could hire someone externally, but that only seems to occur when they select head coaches. Often, when they promote coordinators they do so from within. That leads us to believe their best options are Dennard Wilson, Tracy Rocker, and Nick Rallis. Here’s a breakdown of all three.

Dennard Wilson

Dennard Wilson is respected league-wide. His players love him. Currently, he’s the Eagles’ defensive passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach.

Under his watch, Darius Slay has seen two Pro Bowl nods. Avonte Maddox has played his best football with Wilson in his ear, and James Bradberry saw a career renaissance, earning a Second-team All-Pro nod at the season’s end as a result.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Epps, and undrafted rookie Reed Blankenship have all become better players as a result of Wilson’s efforts. He’s one of our favorites to land the now-vacant D.C. job. Here are two other names to keep an eye on as well.

Tracy Rocker

In 2022, quietly, Fletcher Cox had his best season since 2018. Milton Williams is working his way toward being great. We don’t even have to remind you of how well the Eagles’ defensive line played this year until Super Bowl LVII. Credit Tracy Rocker, the team’s defensive line coach for all of that.

Rocker’s name must be mentioned for Josh Sweat’s continued rise to stardom, how he got Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh ready to play, and the continued maturation of guys like Javon Hargrave. If you’re still doubtful, just ask Brandon Graham about how great Rocker is. He may not have the best chance of winning the job, but he definitely needs to be considered.

Nick Rallis

It’s hard not to like Nick Rallis. He’s going to be a rock star. As Eagles linebackers coach, he has helped T.J. Edwards improve. He has also helped Haason Reddick earn his first Pro Bowl nod.

Rallis is somewhat unknown to the general public. He’s a name that everyone knows league-wide. It’s difficult to determine what a defense led by Rallis would look like, but here’s what we do know. It would be smart, fast, and well-prepared, and guys would fly to the football.

The wildcards: Jerod Mayo and Lovie Smith

Yes… yes.. We know… The New England Patriots have already stated that Jerod Mayo isn’t going anywhere and that they don’t want to lose him, but hey, do you believe what these coaches and teams say? Again, less than two weeks ago, J.G. said he wasn’t going anywhere either.

Philly has interviewed Jerod Mayo before. Keep an eye on him. He could be someone to watch as we move through this process. Lovie Smith hasn’t been mentioned much, but if he is added as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, throw a party. He’d be a massive upgrade from Shane Steichen and the Jim Schwartz era that preceded J.G.’s addition.

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