At this time last season, Jonathan Gannon was the defensive coordinator for a Philadelphia Eagles team that was stumbling ahead of a run to the Super Bowl.
On Sunday afternoon, Gannon returns to Philadelphia as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals (3-12) to face a team whose current Super Bowl dreams diminished during a 1-3 December.
The Eagles (11-4) returned to the win column with an up-and-down, 33-25 home victory over the New York Giants on Monday. Philadelphia didn’t exactly return to Super Bowl form, however, with two turnovers, nine penalties and a shaky finish after grabbing a 20-3 halftime lead.
The Eagles did snap a three-game losing streak and moved a game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. They still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a first-round playoff bye with two more wins and some help.
Last season, with quarterback Jalen Hurts out with a shoulder injury, backup Gardner Minshew and the Eagles lost to Dallas and New Orleans in Weeks 16 and 17 before rolling to Super Bowl LVII.
“Obviously we didn’t finish the job last year, which all of us have the taste in our mouth of, dang, wish we finished the job,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, “but there still were a lot of special moments last year and in 2021, and Jonathan Gannon was a big part of that.
“I value that relationship I have with him. I’m always rooting for Coach Gannon … but this will be the week I will not be rooting for him, obviously.”
Philadelphia fans may give Gannon the cold shoulder, but Sirianni’s admiration is shared by many of his players.
“Gannon’s my boy, man. I miss him,” Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat said. “A lot of energy and a great coach.
“We’ve got to whoop his (butt). We can’t let him (beat us). But after, it’s all love.”
Gannon had to coach his first nine games without dynamic quarterback Kyler Murray, who was recovering from a torn ACL.
The Cardinals have lost two straight and four of their past five, including a 27-16 setback at Chicago on Christmas Eve that dropped them to 1-7 on the road this season.
While Philadelphia is trying to improve its playoff positioning, Arizona is on track for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Gannon’s Cardinals can still play spoiler in his reunion with Sirianni.
“That’s something that’s not in my brain of playing spoiler,” Gannon said. “I want to try to do a good enough job this week to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Before working as Sirianni’s defensive coordinator for two seasons, Gannon coached defensive backs in Indianapolis from 2018-20 while Sirianni was the Colts’ offensive coordinator.
“He’s helped me a good deal, moving throughout this year with some different things,” Gannon said of Sirianni. “He’s always a resource for me, obviously we’re extremely tight, but it’ll be the Eagles vs. the Cardinals: compete, compete, compete.”
Murray did not practice Wednesday due to an illness but Gannon said he wasn’t concerned about his availability for the rest of the week.
Wide receiver Marquise Brown (heel) and linebacker Zaven Collins (ankle) did not participate in the week’s first practice either. Linebackers Owen Pappoe (ankle) and Victor Dimukeje (foot) and defensive backs Andre Chachere (shoulder), Bobby Price (quad) and Garrett Williams (knee) were limited.
Cornerback Darius Slay (knee) is still not practicing for the Eagles. Linebackers Zach Cunningham (knee) and Nicholas Morrow (abdomen) were limited participants Wednesday while left guard Landon Dickerson (thumb) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (pectoral) had no restrictions.