Jonathan Gannon paved his way to the Cardinals’ head coaching position by coordinating a top-10 Eagles defense in 2022, but he’ll be handing over the keys to that unit to his newly hired defensive coordinator, Nick Rallis.
“The vision of how I want to play defense and how I want the defensive players to act and the coaches to serve the players, he had that vision, he shared that vision with me,” Gannon said of Rallis during the DC’s introductory news conference. “Very high capacity, very high character. Those were two [of the] most important [parts] for me hiring coaches and he has those, and [I have] complete faith in Nick to run the defense.”
Although Gannon began his answer Wednesday explaining his thought process behind hiring Rallis, who worked under Gannon as Philly’s linebackers coach the past two years, the last sentence piqued the interest of reporters in attendance.
When asked a follow-up, Gannon replied: “Did I say he was calling the defense?
“Maybe I said that I’ll get to that when we get to it. Nick will call the defense.”
So it appears Rallis, the youngest coordinator in the NFL at 29 years old, will assume the most hands-on responsibility for turning around a unit that plummeted to 31st in points allowed and 21st in yards allowed in 2022 after hovering just outside the top 10 in both categories the previous two seasons.
In an ideal world, the union of Gannon and Rallis’ defensive vision, plus the young coordinator’s execution of those philosophies, will result in a Cardinals unit that mirrors the swarming nature the two recently accomplished with Philadelphia’s defense.
While the NFC’s Super Bowl representative came four sacks shy (78) of tying the 1984 Chicago Bears for the single-season sack record (82) and tied for fourth-most takeaways in 2022 with 27, the Cardinals tied for ninth-least in both categories.
Closing that gap even partly would improve the prospects of limiting Arizona’s playoff drought to a single season. Although the play-calling to do so will fall on Rallis’ shoulder, he’ll have his mentor behind him guiding the overall picture.
“There’s a lot of reasons that I chose this organization,” Rallis said while perched next to Gannon. “One of them is the guy sitting right next to me right now. Obviously, I have belief in him as a person, as a coach, as a guy that will help me out as a coordinator — cause he was just in my shoes and obviously I got to witness working with him.”