After a disappointing performance in Super Bowl 57 and a refusal to speak to the media post-game, Jonathan Gannon is out the door. His departure was a bittersweet end to a historic defensive season, as he replaces Kliff Kingsbury as the coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
I argued that Gannon did a fine job this season, but a bitter taste is left in my mouth after his exit. There is a lot of concern about the Eagles’ defensive production regressing, but what is worse than Gannon’s lack of preparation on the biggest stage?
Let’s move forward, and look at candidates who could replace Gannon for the 2023 season, and the pros and cons of each as well.
Dennard Wilson, Defensive Backs Coach, Philadelphia Eagles
Dennard Wilson is the most likely candidate to replace Jonathan Gannon as defensive coordinator. With Wilson coaching the defensive backs, the Eagles’ defense boasted the best past defense in the NFL during the 2022 season. The defense was tied for fourth in the league in interceptions, and quarterbacks were held to 5.5 yards an attempt.
- Wilson played quarterback and safety in college at Maryland and knows the ins and outs of coverages and defensive packages.
- There is a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball. His coaching titles ranged from defensive quality control coach, defensive backs coach, and passing game coordinator. He has coached on three different NFL teams. He’s coached with Gregg Williams and Todd Bowles, two brilliant defensive minds.
- Wilson’s experience as a pro scout with the Chicago Bears could pay dividends in selecting the right defensive players in the NFL draft, aiding Howie Roseman. This could aid in replacing key defensive players they could lose in free agency.
- Eagles players are familiar with Wilson, resulting in an easier transition post-Gannon, and minor changes to scheme and preparation.
- Although Wilson is used to coaching this current defense, will he be prepared for the departure of some key players? It’s possible the Eagles could lose James Bradberry, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Kyzir White, TJ Edwards, and Javon Hargrave. These are a lot of players to potentially overcome, and finding a scheme for the players that possibly replace the others is a tall order.
- Despite Jonathan Gannon running the show, Wilson was the defensive backs coach during the Superbowl, a night the unit looked incredibly unprepared. With receivers left wide open, one could wonder if Wilson is just as responsible, and would implement a similar scheme in 2023.
Sean Desai, Defensive Assistant, Seattle Seahawks
Sean Desai is a great candidate and is on the radar of multiple teams, including the Cardinals, Broncos, and Vikings. He was hired by the Seattle Seahawks as a defensive assistant at the beginning of 2022.
- Desai is a disciple of Vic Fangio, one of the best current defensive minds in the NFL.
- His coaching experience ranges from special teams, running backs, defensive quality control, safeties, and defensive coordinator, and has experience as a director of football operations. He has coached at the collegiate and professional levels and is a very versatile mind to have on a team.
- When Desai was the Bears’ defensive coordinator, it was top 10 defense against the pass and in yards allowed. He has been praised for maintaining a statistically good unit despite injuries. He loves to create pressure and focus on the run, and the Eagles have the personnel to do just that.
- The Eagles will not have much time to make a decision on Desai if they’re interested, as he is already being interviewed by multiple teams.
- With Desai as a defensive assistant in 2022, the Seahawks defense was one of the worst in the NFL. As an assistant, he was not fully responsible for scheme and game-planning, but the Seattle defense pulled poor numbers. They ranked 26th in yards allowed, 30th in rushing defense, and 25th in points allowed. With multiple fearing an inevitable regression for the Eagles’ defense in 2023, these numbers are alarming.
Jerod Mayo, Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots
Jerod Mayo is a hot name and is respected as one of the freshest and younger defensive minds in the NFL. After playing linebacker with the New England Patriots for eight seasons. He then retired in 2015 and became their linebackers coach in 2019. He has been sought after previously, turning down positions in Cleveland and Carolina.
- He has a more limited resume than other candidates, having been with just one team, but Mayo would be a great candidate for a team looking to prioritize pressure with a great front seven. He’s been complimented for being a great communicator and mentor, with some play-calling experience.
- New England has put up impressive numbers defensively with Mayo on the coaching staff. In 2019, they were the best defense in yards allowed, sixth in run defense, second in pass defense, and first in points allowed. In 2021 they were in the top half of the league in yards allowed. In 2022, the defense was eighth in yards per game, sixth in run defense, and 10th in points allowed. Run defense appears to be a strength during his tenure. The defense produced 30 turnovers, good for second in the NFL as well.
- With his resume being limited to coaching linebackers, a promotion to defensive coordinator is a tall order. Although he’d hire others to help him, he is not familiar with coaching in the secondary. Many would question if he’s ready to call plays for an entire defense.
- Seen as one of Belichick’s top assistants, it seems like a long shot that he’d actually want to leave New England and coach elsewhere. It would take the perfect scenario for Mayo to leave.
Who would you like the Eagles to hire to be the defensive coordinator for the 2023 NFL season?