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Problem-Solver Nick Rallis Ready For Job As Defensive Coordinator

Age is just a number for Cardinals' new playcaller

Defensive coordinator Nick Rallis (right) has a laugh as coach Jonathan Gannon speaks during Rallis' introductory press conference on Wednesday.
Defensive coordinator Nick Rallis (right) has a laugh as coach Jonathan Gannon speaks during Rallis' introductory press conference on Wednesday.

His new 29-year-old defensive coordinator sitting next to him, Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon was asked about the youth he had been collecting on his first staff.

"What's my quote that I use?" Gannon asked Nick Rallis, with whom he coached with in Philadelphia the last two seasons.

"Experience is not synonymous with knowledge," Rallis said.

"I'm really not worried about their age," Gannon added. "I'm worried about if they can serve the players and get the job done."

Age was front and center Wednesday for Rallis' introductory press conference – new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing will be introduced Thursday – and that was to be expected. Whatever his age, however, Rallis doesn't sound like a guy unsure of where he has gotten in his career.

Gannon brings big energy to every room he enters (he clapped as he and Rallis arrived to the press conference) and Rallis will have that too. But there is nuance there as a coach, Rallis said.

"Being energetic is not the same thing as being emotional," Rallis said. "I always pride myself on bringing energy and love for the job and the sport every day, but one thing I strive to be and from my staff is to be highly emotionally intelligent. To be the same person every day.

"Ultimately it's being in a state of mind that is optimal to solve problems."

With Gannon still putting his coaching staff together, details about the defense weren't plentiful. Gannon, the former defensive coordinator for the Eagles, said Rallis will be the defensive playcaller. Rallis also brought up Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker, saying he "sets the standard in how you want to play this game" and how the coaches will push the players to be "violent" and "explosive" – two of Gannon's buzzwords.

Rallis echoed Gannon's quest to be adaptable to the players he will have, although the roster is far from built.

Gannon said he is closing in on completing his coaching staff, adding that a few members of Kliff Kingsbury's staff will be retained. Jeff Rodgers, Kingsbury's special teams coordinator and assistant head coach, was already announced as one of them.

"I have a vision in my brain of what I want as far as coordinators go and positions coaches go and (Rallis) fit that mold," Gannon said.

Rallis didn't necessarily think he'd be a coordinator at 29, although he doesn't sound surprised he is, either.

"I am grateful this opportunity came when it did, without question," Rallis said. "But I try to be where my feet are every day."

Gannon told a story of how he interviews coaching candidates, and to learn from each he asks them what was the best thing and what was the worst thing their previous/current boss had done. He did the same with Rallis.

Gannon didn't get specific, but he said Rallis – whose boss had been Gannon – gave an eye-opening answer to the "worst thing," and Gannon took note.

Whatever Rallis' age, there is already a trust.

"I have complete faith in Nick to run the defense," Gannon said.

Portraits of Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Jonathan Gannon, Defensive Coordinator Nick Rallis and Offensive Coordinator Drew Petzing in the locker room at Dignity Health Training Center