TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jonathan Gannon’s journey to becoming the Arizona Cardinals' new head coach started long before general manager Monti Ossenfort picked him up at his hotel around 11 a.m. on Monday morning to take Gannon to the Cardinals’ headquarters in Tempe for the start of what became a two-day interview.
It began about a year ago and initially had nothing to do with Gannon, who has been the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator the past two seasons.
Ossenfort was still the Tennessee Titans' director of player personnel when he went through general manager interviews during last year’s hiring cycle. He remembered being asked who he’d interview for a head-coaching vacancy and Ossenfort listed off a few names. But he didn’t know any of the coaches he mentioned -- they were just good coaches. Last summer, Ossenfort decided to change that. He started reaching out to assistants around the league who he thought had head-coaching potential to get to know them, talk some football and discuss their visions if they were to ever become a head coach.
“I had a lot of great conversations,” Ossenfort said Thursday.
One of them was with Gannon.
When Ossenfort was named the Cardinals’ general manager on Jan. 16, his first task was to lead the search for a head coach to replace Kliff Kingsbury, who had been fired a week earlier. Thanks to Ossenfort's work last summer, Gannon was one of the names on the GM's list -- and this time he actually knew the men on it.
However, Ossenfort’s plan to interview Gannon hit a snag. The window to interview coaches in the playoffs had already closed by the time Ossenfort was hired, meaning the Cardinals would have to wait until Gannon’s Eagles were eliminated.
So, the Cardinals waited. And waited. The Eagles kept winning, advancing to Super Bowl LVII, which was going to be played, coincidentally enough, on the Cardinals’ home field at State Farm Stadium, and Philadelphia was going to use Arizona’s facility all week.
In the meantime, the Cardinals interviewed nine other candidates.
Gannon’s path to the Cardinals began, in earnest, before the Eagles lost in the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman approached Gannon on the morning of the Super Bowl and asked if he was aware the Cardinals were interested in interviewing him. Gannon was not. Roseman said they'd talk more about it after the game.
After the game, Roseman approached Gannon again with some news: He wouldn't be flying back with the team in the morning because he had an interview the next day with the Cardinals. That night, Gannon said he retired to his hotel room and watched film of the game where his defense gave up a season-high 38 points.
Once he found out about the interview, Gannon had to switch his approach in a hurry. He had to compartmentalize the Super Bowl loss and move on to his interview.
“That’s when I clicked that mindset in and said, ‘OK, well, let me stop. I have got to pick up my bootstraps a little bit because I was down obviously about the game, and take a shower, work out, and come in and shoot your gun,’” Gannon said. “So, that’s what I did.”
Fortunately for Gannon, he had clothing suitable for an interview because of what he wore during the Eagles’ flight to Arizona.
With the Eagles’ busses leaving the team hotel at 10 a.m. Monday and Ossenfort scheduled to swing by and pick Gannon up about an hour or so later, Gannon had the morning to gather his thoughts and write out some notes.
“I obviously had prepped for that opportunity for a long time,” Gannon said. “And basically I did not have a book. I didn't have a piece of paper.
“I had one note card. I showed [Cardinals owner] Michael [Bidwill] my call sheet from the Super Bowl and said, ‘This is how I do things. I write it by hand.’ And ultimately we talked about what was in my brain and what was in my heart.”
Gannon was scheduled to fly back to Philadelphia at 6:30 p.m. Monday night but was asked if he had enough clothing to stay the night again. He did, and that led to him, Bidwill and Ossenfort going to dinner on Monday before talking more on Tuesday.
“When I came in here and interviewed, I had a very open mind and I used the interview to explain my vision and really wanted to see if my vision for running a team matched up with Michael's and Monti’s,” Gannon said. “And it did.”
By time he finally flew back to Philadelphia on Tuesday, he was the Cardinals’ head coach.
But his chaotic week wasn’t over yet.
He spent Tuesday night at home before flying back to Arizona on Wednesday with his wife, Gina; daughter, Lola; and two sons, Rocco and Angelo.
“Back and forth,” Gannon said. “Back and forth.”
That all led to the Thursday morning news conference. He took a seat at a table in the Cardinals’ team meeting room in between Bidwill and Ossenfort and was introduced as the Cardinals’ 11th head coach since they moved to Arizona in 1988.
“The last four or five days have been very normal for me,” Gannon said. “You gotta adapt as things come at your door and they've been exciting. Obviously, I have a lot of energy and emotion that went into the game and then losing that game and then staying the night here, not knowing I was gonna stay the night and interview for a head-coaching job.
“But you take everything in stride and you do the best that you can. And I'll say that it was a fun 48 hours. I'll say that, because I enjoyed myself.”