As the first full week of Jonathan Gannon gets underway, a mailbag everyone. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Jimmy N:
"Hi Darren, I don't understand why did Sean Payton cost draft picks to hire as head coach and Jon Gannon didn't? Is Jon G's contract with the Eagles expired?"
One thing to clarify -- he goes by Jonathan and not Jon. But here's the deal. Payton was already a head coach and "retired" so the Saints kept his rights through the balance of his deal and therefore could request compensation to let him out of the deal. For coordinators, the league rules say coaches cannot be blocked from being promoted to a head coach position regardless of contract status. If it required compensation every time, few assistants would ever be plucked to be head coaches. And no assistants would want to sign more than one-year contracts.
From Bob Kitsos:
"Hi Darren. Thanks for the great work with the mailbag. A fun and informative read. With the new coach, would you have preferred an offensive coordinator or previous head coach with experience? Are you a little surprised by the length of the contract? Any concerns about the Eagles' defense being shredded in Sunday's second half?"
I know this is something that drives people crazy, but I really didn't have a preference. I can't be in the meetings so it's impossible for me to have an informed decision. I think this team needed a leader, and hopefully that's what Gannon is, but I don't know any of the candidates so it's tough for me to have a preference. I am assuming you think five years is long, but that's standard for a coach first hired. And as for the second half in the Super Bowl, no. If you are hiring your head coach based on a half of football or two busted touchdowns scored by the Chiefs, then you don't know what you are doing.
From Jo Wood:
"Gannon is younger than Kliff. First-time head coach. Only two years experience of NFL leadership as defensive coordinator. I don't know how to feel. Tell me how to feel Darren."
Jo, I'm not here to tell anyone how to feel. That's a deeply personal decision. I'm not sure how you necessarily have to be a coordinator to be a leader; if you are a position coach you are already a leader of at least that unit. As for Gannon's age, he's younger than Kliff is now but he is older than Kingsbury was when Kingsbury was hired.
From Tye Tye:
"Correct me if I am wrong but is it the Super Bowl's responsibility to maintain the field for the game and not the team who resides there? It appeared there were some issues with the field during the game and now I am seeing a lot of slander from random pundits that the field has had issues for years. I have been seen or heard a complaint about the Cardinals playing surface ever. Isn't our stadium always rated by the players and coaches as one of the best in the league every year?"
Here are the facts: The field at State Farm Stadium has indeed been rated the best in the league multiple times, by a player survey. There have been times here and there when there have been complaints, but never many and certainly not consistently. And yes, the field for the Super Bowl is under the NFL's control, not the Cardinals. The Super Bowl was not a great game for the grass, for whatever reason. But the Cardinals weren't in charge.
From Andy Heldenbrand:
"Hello Darren. Thank you for all you do answering our questions and keeping us informed. I have a two-part question. There were reports going around that Kliff Kingsbury would be interviewing for a OC job with Houston, but I see now that he's not taking that. Had he taken that position would he have lost his salary from the Cardinals? Also, there were reports of our new GM and D-Hop having a meeting about his status with the team is there anything new with that?"
If Kingsbury got a job somewhere, I am guessing there would be offset language for his salary -- but it would only free the Cardinals from paying whatever his new salary would be, and they would still owe him the balance of whatever he was owed. No matter what, Kingsbury was/is going to make whatever his Cardinals' contract called for. As for the D-Hop meeting, it happened, but all Hop did was acknowledge it happened. His future remains TBA.
From Jim Davenport:
"Saw your article on Dave Sears. So did he really join the organization? Haven't seen any announcement from the Cardinals. How will he contribute to success? Also, it's so important to upgrade the offensive line. How do you see that playing out this year? If Kyler comes back we can't have weak line."
Yes, Sears is here. Often announcements in the front office are done in one swoop if there are multiple hires coming, so that's one reason it hasn't been official yet. He'll contribute like anyone in that position -- using his experience to be a sounding board/idea man for GM Monti Ossenfort, and being a key voice in draft prep. As for the offensive line, I get the sense Ossenfort is a guy who will want focus on lines on both sides of scrimmage.
From Roger Drake:
"When I look back on last season we were definitely decimated by injuries, but also like Budda (Baker) said the team was not prepared for the opening of the season. What's your take on training camp and preseason in terms of playing time to get ready for the opener? I know the Cards suffered so many injuries last season, but it seems to be a regular occurrence for our team. Thank you for your mailbag."
I understand those who ask about training camp. Gannon, when asked about it last week, didn't commit to harder. He said camp practices would vary by the day depending on how the team is. We will see if it is harder than last year's, but health for the team is important. Unfortunately it didn't pay off. Now, I am curious about how preseason games are treated and whether Gannon will hold out most of the starters again or if everyone gets playing time this time around.
From Matt H:
"Hey Darren, I am stoked about the new hires, Ossenfort and Gannon. I loved the Gannon family pictures that you guys put up on the site. Here are my questions for Mr. Urban (who may now be the longest tenured Cardinal?)
- Was Gannon the choice from the beginning and did Bidwill and Ossenfort put on their poker faces to make this deal happen?
- How do we have another draft like 2003? Was there a big luck factor or was it our best group of talent evaluators?
- Any chance we can get Anarumo as our DC? Probably not, so who's our top choice?
- Was it a priority to hire a family man like Gannon? Do the players respect that about a coach?
Thanks for your expertise, Darren!"
Here are some answers:
- I don't think he was the choice from the beginning. I do think Ossenfort wanted to talk to him once Ossenfort was hired and that's why they waited.
- It's funny you bring up 2003. I can't tell if you misspoke and are talking about 2004 (Fitz, Dockett, Dansby, Smith) or if you really meant 2003 (Not as great but still pretty good with Anquan Boldin, Gerald Hayes, Reggie Wells, Calvin Pace, Bryant Johnson). Luck is involved yes. But I'm a believer that the draft is a crapshoot in a lot of ways. The Cardinals need to be better. But no one is nailing most picks most years. Doesn't happen.
- You sent this in last week, but obviously Anarumo wouldn't be DC. The Bengals wouldn't be letting him leave laterally. Makes little sense, especially with a team that declined to hire him as a head coach.
- Gannon's family had nothing to do with it. And maybe players would respect it, but it doesn't factor in with them in terms of what they want in a coach. Can he coach? That's all that matters.
From Drew Sendri:
"Hi Darren, looks like we got our coordinators. I think the overall 1st impression is 'jarring.' I think I sent in a comment some weeks ago saying how usually in the NFL teams tend to ocellate from extreme to extreme when making major coaching changes. Meaning we just had the young, up and comer, unproven hot shot in Kliff Kingsbury and so the statistics suggested our next coach would be a old grizzled BA type. We got anything but. The team went younger and even more inexperienced with this new coaching staff. Which on one hand is scary as a fan. On the other, I think clearly Monti is making these decisions and so I think there's some vindication for Michael for people who are accusing him of meddling."
I don't think there is any question Ossenfort was the driving force about Gannon and that's good -- he's the GM. As for the assistants that have leaked out, that's Gannon's call, not the owner or GM. I have only dealt with Gannon a little but he showed up with a plan and a vision and he's going to execute that, including his staff. This is not like 2019 when Steve Keim helped so much in building that staff.
"Can you tell us what the criteria for the Ring of Honor is, if there is one? Thank you."
There isn't anything written in stone. The Bidwill family, led by Michael, are the ones ultimately making those choices.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren. I call myself the Self-aware Hypocrite Idiot because I know who I am and I like making people mad. It's easy. I feel we all have faults and as soon as you acknowledge them and work on them and accept them you can have a better life. And I say idiot because it's just a word. Now to my question, at the end of the 2023 season what would you call a successful season? Also, when is Cardinals Underground 'Bingo': The Home Game coming out?"
What would a successful season be? The team is going to say playoffs. My bar would be lower, and it's not going to be about wins and losses. If Kyler Murray gets back on the field moving around like the pre-injury Kyler while running a new Gannon offense and the team is competitive -- OK, you don't want another four-win season, but you can be better without a lot of wins -- that would work for me. You want to see that accountability Gannon talked about too. As for CU bingo, that's a Dani Sureck question. She's the brains behind all that.
From Tyler G:
"Recently, I have noticed you specify that general manager and head coach candidates are men. Are you intentionally pointing out that there are only male candidates? Has there been any movement or discussion about non-male coaches and personnel people? I don't see gender included in conversations about diversity in the NFL. I don't consume a ton of sports media, so maybe it happens and I don't see it. Thank you for constantly reminding us that players and coaches are people first. It has helped shape how I view the game."
Since the Cardinals brought Jen Welter in for training camp to help coach linebackers, there have been more than a few women hired for coaching staffs around the league and more than a few women who are now in front offices. It's only a matter of time before a woman is a GM, and while it might take longer, I can see a path to a woman becoming a head coach at some point. It's in the conversation -- not as much as minorities, but it's there. If I made reference to gender it was unintentional, but perhaps it's a good thing it's in my subconscious.
From Josh Nielsen:
"Hey Darren. Any word on keeping D-Hop? Are there talks about changing up our offensive tactics now that Kyler Murray is going to be out for a majority of the 2023 season? It was just frustrating to see all of that talent down the field not getting deep passes for touchdowns. We dominated in the first half of 2021 and we were making big plays. Not so much this season. Thank for your time!"
There hasn't been anything said one way or the other. I think they are still sorting things out. The Cardinals don't even have a coaching staff yet. As for the offense, Gannon has made clear that it is changing for Kyler not because he won't be available.
From Vincent Lott:
"Isaiah Simmons was on a podcast on Super Bowl media row and he was asked about Kyler. And he said something new that I hadn't heard before. He said 'Kyler keeps to himself. It's not like he's rude to the rest of us, he's just a quiet guy.' It was not encouraging. His contract is the reason other guys cant get paid. So there's no such thing as 'keeping to himself.' Kyler needs to change. Despite everything you've said in Kyler's defense, you cannot be a leader by 'keeping to yourself.' "
To me, there are different ways to lead. Always have been, and especially in an NFL locker room. If Kyler plays at an elite level, whether he keeps to himself or not doesn't matter to me. (And knowing how he went out with the offensive linemen, he obviously doesn't sit in silence all the time.) I'm not saying he doesn't need to grow, and that would be an area that could improve. I'm also not saying leadership isn't important. But I've been around this game a long time and performance > leadership every time. I don't care how great a leader you are if you can't play.
From Josh Speyers:
"I'm Detroit eager to trade up to No. 3 for a top defensive line player. If the Lions offered 6 and 18 would that be enough for the Cardinals to accept that deal?"
I'd very much consider that if I was the Cardinals. If I was the Lions there is no way I'd make that trade and I don't see why they would.
From Sidney Sexson:
"Darren would you please let us know all of the players who were at coach Gannon's introductory press conference. Thanks."
I wouldn't be able to know for sure. Some were up front. Some were standing in the back and I didn't hear about some of those names until after. It's not like there was a sign-up sheet and I don't like the idea that if a guy was there it makes him in favor of the hire and if someone wasn't there he had a problem. Ninety percent of the guys in the building were there because they are rehabbing something or another, and it made sense for them to walk over into the auditorium. Many guys are still out of the state.
From Melinda Schussele:
"Thank you so much for giving us Cardinals fans this opportunity to comment or ask questions. I have three questions: 1. Does NFL have restrictions involved when coach Gannon contacts anyone under contract with other teams to join his staff? 2. When Kliff Kingsbury gets a new job, will it be treated like a trade and Cardinals be compensated? 3. As apparently Steve Keim did not officially quit and wasn't fired, are Cardinals still paying him a salary? Thank you."
- Teams must ask permission from other teams to talk to coaches under contract. If it is for a promotion to HC or coordinator the permission is a formality, but it still has to be asked.
- Kingsbury was fired, so the Cardinals will not get any compensation if someone else wants to hire him.
- I don't know Keim's exact situation, but I would guess there is a chance there was a severance package. He would not still be getting a salary.
From Leland Manusos:
"Hey Darren. Let's talk Suns! It speaks to just how beloved Mikal Bridges was that on a day where Arizona sports experienced arguably the largest acquisition of elite, GOAT talent in AZ sports history, that many are more upset about losing Mikal than we are happy about gaining Durant. Look, it was like shooting Old Yeller. You don't want to do it, but it was the right thing to do. What are your thoughts Darren? Plenty think we gave up too much, think we mortgaged the long-term for this short window. I'm not in that crowd. I say go all in for it."
I hated seeing Bridges go. I was someone who struggled right after the trade. That said, I understand it. Here's how I look at it -- if Mat Ishbia is the kind of owner who plunges a ton of money into this and this gets known over time and he keeps bringing in guys even if the draft picks aren't there, it's fine. I want to see the team stay competitive. That was really my biggest issue -- I wish they hadn't dealt 4 first-rounders plus Bridges and Cam and Crowder. That's what bothered me. But Durant, if he is healthy, is a hellava get.