Eagles coach Nick Sirianni had already talked a little about facing Jonathan Gannon – his former defensive coordinator against whom he will play Sunday when the Cardinals visit Philadelphia – when he did a radio interview Wednesday morning.
Sirianni chuckled while speaking on WIP, but he had a message for his friend.
"As much as I love Jonathan Gannon, because I do, I hired him to be the defensive coordinator, we had so many special moments the past two years and my sentiment toward Jonathan Gannon is not the same as what I hear the city's sentiment is," Sirianni said. "I love him, and I am always rooting for him except for this week.
"(But) I want him to feel so freaking uncomfortable when he walks into – and I'm going to tell him I said this – I want him to feel so uncomfortable and I am already sensing that's that is going to happen when he walks in that stadium that he never wants to come back to Philly again."
Such is the banter between friends. Gannon himself smiled when it was brought up, saying that yes, Sirianni had indeed given him the message directly.
"I've got nothing but love and respect for all those people there," Gannon said. "Obviously, a great two years for my family and I and how tight I am with Nick, but it's like I said, it's compete, compete, compete.
"It's a great place to play. It's a hostile environment. They were on our side for two years when I was there, but our guys know—we've played in some hostile environments. That's going to be one of them."
It will be interesting to see how much the Philly fans want to make Gannon uncomfortable, at least compared to how uneasy the fan base usually wants to make the opponent regardless.
Most opposing coaches, however, don't have the history with the Eagles that Gannon does. He orchestrated a fantastic defense in 2022, with a franchise-record 70 sacks, in helping the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
When the Eagles lost a close game to the Chiefs, Gannon became the scapegoat, especially after accepting the Cardinals head coaching job. Prior to the draft, the Cardinals and Eagles announced that the Cards had acknowledged tampering with Gannon early in the coaching talks, leading to a draft pick swap (and leaving the Cardinals with an extra fifth-round pick in the 2024 draft.)
"Just the way everything happened, the way everybody kind of talked about him when he left, I know he wants some type of getback," defensive end Brandon Graham told Philadelphia reporters on Wednesday. "We've just got to make sure we go out and do us, man. Play, play hard, but it's going to be good to see him."
Gannon did say the Eagles game was just the next game on the schedule, and that whatever reception he gets from the fans, "I'm not really concerned about it." Gannon's return would've been front-page news in Philly anyway, but with the Eagles struggling on defense, his departure had already resurfaced as a storyline.
It makes sense for Gannon to be concentrating on his own team; the record (3-12) is not what the first-year coach had hoped for but has brought in a "winning culture," linebacker Dennis Gardeck said, despite the absence of victories.
When safety Budda Baker was asked if the players wanted to get Gannon a win in Philly because of his history there, Baker didn't pause. "Just trying to get a win, period."
But Baker smiled when he revealed he considered interrupting Gannon during the team meeting Wednesday morning.
"I was thinking in my head, 'I better not see no shaking hands, kissing or hugging babies before the game. You do that after the game,'" Baker said. "That was on my mind. But it's another opponent and we'll try and win a game."
Sirianni might want to shake Gannon's hand, or other staffers. There probably won't be a lot of interaction with the fans or any babies on hand.
"The environment is phenomenal," said Cardinals defensive coordinator Nick Rallis, who was on Gannon's Eagles staff last season. "I wouldn't expect too much of a warm-hearted cheer and that's what is fun about it. The fans will be going crazy."
The players have complimented Gannon since he left, a group of athletes that understood Gannon helped them when he was there and needed to leave to upgrade his career.
"JG is my guy, man," cornerback Darius Slay told Philadelphia reporters. "It is going to be great to see him. I love what he is doing over there. I have been hearing nothing but great things from guys over there. I know one thing they are gonna do is play hard for him, for sure."
That's Gannon's whole plan, is to get the Cardinals to play hard. That's his plan every week.
Why would this week be any different?
Zaryn, a team captain and three-year member of the Arizona Cardinals cheer team, was selected to represent the Cardinals cheerleaders at the 2024 Pro Bowl Games in Orlando