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In today’s NFL, defensive-minded head coaches are facing significantly stiffer odds for success

The NFL is now a QB driven league more than ever before

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For some Arizona Cardinals’ fans like myself, it still makes little to no sense that new GM Monti Ossenfort elected to hire a defensive-minded head coach, particularly in light of the fact that Kyler Murray was coming off his worst season as a pro after lavishing him with a $230.5M contract.

Ossenfort, while working as personnel staffer with the Patriots and Titans has only worked under defensive-minded head coaches. Of course, in New England, he had the privilege of learning from the greatest defensive-minded head coach in NFL history —- but, how many Super Bowl titles would the Patriots have won without QB Tom Brady?

In Tennessee, Mike Vrable has a 52-41 regular season and 2-3 playoff record. At 4-7 this season and with the ongoing uncertainty at the team’s QB situation, Vrable is now one of the NFL coaches most likely to get fired at the end of the 2023 season.

Current Odds for Next NFL Head Coach to Get Fired:

  • Brandon Staley Chargers +250
  • Ron Rivera Commanders +400
  • Matt Eberflus Bears +450
  • Mike Vrabel Titans +750
  • Bill Belichick Patriots +800
  • Todd Bowles Buccaneers +950
  • Brian Daboll Giants +1200

And if Sean McDermott’s defense in Buffalo keeps giving up late 4th quarter scores that have continued a disturbing trend of close losses, he too could find himself interviewing for DC jobs in 2024.

One could imagine that there are a number of Bills fans who would have preferred to have Brian Daboll promoted to HC, in light of the outstanding way he coached up QB Josh Allen.

If all of these defensive-minded head coaches are fired, how many are left?

  • Mike Tomlin, Steelers
  • Pete Carroll, Seahawks
  • Dennis Allen, Saints
  • Robert Saleh, Jets
  • DeMeco Ryans, Texans
  • Jonathan Gannon, Cardinals

Looking forward, which of these remaining head coaches has the best odds to win a Super Bowl?

Poll

Looking forward, which of these remaining defensive-minded head coaches has the best odds to win a Super Bowl?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Mike Tomlin
    (31 votes)
  • 12%
    Pete Carroll
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Dennis Allen
    (1 vote)
  • 9%
    Robert Saleh
    (11 votes)
  • 41%
    DeMeco Ryans
    (50 votes)
  • 10%
    Jonathan Gannon
    (13 votes)
121 votes total Vote Now

Please cast your vote now —- and at the end of the article I will predict who the top 2 vote getters will be. I think it’s pretty much a slam dunk, given their current situations.

With regard to Monti Ossenfort’s decision to hire Jonathan Gannon, who was coming off his worst half of defensive football in his two-year stint as the Eagles’ DC and, even prior to that 2nd half meltdown in the Super Bowl, had become a persona non grata to hordes of Eagles’ fans —- not only did Ossenfort elect to break NFL rules to set up a post-Super Bowl interview with Gannon —-it wound up making the Gannon hire even more controversial, particularly among the national media —- and it also cost the Cardinals their 3rd round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

When Monti Ossenfort was hired, he vowed to create a system-wide alignment between himself, the team scouts, the team’s coaches and players. He vowed to create a new culture based on accountability.

Ironically, just a couple of weeks later, Ossenfort’s own accountability was put into question after he was caught breaking NFL rules. Subsequently, Jonathan Gannon’s accountability came under heavy scrutiny for breaking the rules during Super Bowl preparation time and then falsely denying his knowledge of the Cardinals’ interest in him as he was trying to prepare his defense for the Kansas City Chiefs.

When Monti Ossenfort was hired, he deflected every question that was asked of him about Kyler Murray’s short and long-term status with the organization. In fact, in one of the more poignant moments of Ossenfort’s introductory presser, when asked whether he would try to hire a head coach who could be a good fit for Kyler Murray, the new GM responded, “I want to find a head coach who is a good fit for all of the players.”

One could get the sense at first that none of the current players on the roster were necessarily in Ossenfort’s plans moving forward when despite calling Budda Baker the epitome of everything the franchise stands for, Ossenfort appeared to be unwilling to renegotiate Budda’s contract, which, of course, led to Budda to skip the team’s OTAs and caused wide-spread trade speculation.

Finally at the beginning of training camp, Ossenfort was able to restructure Budda’s contract to make his return mutually agreeable —- but the situation with Budda was regrettable, because it was avoidable and was allowed to fester for months.

Yet, two personnel decisions that were mystifying were Ossenfort’s and Gannon’s lauding of D.J. Humphries as a player with utmost “football integrity” —- and then. most curiously of all, while Ossenfort came off as non-committal to Kyler Murray, Gannon charged in and hailed Kyler as the “franchise quarterback” and one of the main reasons why he wanted the Cardinals’ job.

Gannon’s outward enthusiasm about Kyler Murray immediately endeared him to the vast number of Cardinals’ fans who have been anxious to cling to their belief that Kyler is well worth the $230.5M.

Which begs the obvious question —- are both Ossenfort and Gannon aligned on the outlook of Kyler Murray being the franchise QB of their own choice?

Mchael Bidwill has seemingly been on the fence with regard to Kyler Murray ever since the tumultuous end of the 2021 season. Yes, Bidwill, at Steve Keim’s and Kliff Kingsbury’s behest, wound up caving in to Kyler’s contract demands, but did so with the attachment of an alarming “homework clause” caveat, combined with a $10.5M contract incentive for Kyler to train at the Cardinals’ facility on a regular basis during OTAs and the off-season.

One would imagine that Bidwill and Ossenfort have had numerous discussions about Kyler’s future with the team.

It is no secret that Monti Ossenfort has been showing up to scout the top college QBs as part of his due diligence as GM.

Meanwhile, Ossenfort has taken a potentially reckless risk in having Kyler return to action so soon following his ACL rehab, with the knowledge that Kyler has had such little time to practice on the field with his teammates in prepping to perform in a brand-new offense.

Kyler’s first game back was a huge success because of Kyler’s early and late game magic.

However, Kyler has struggled in old-familiar ways the past two games —- and not only that —- he was limping off the field after the Cardinals outrageous 37-14 loss to the 4-6 Rams at home this past week.

Are Ossenfort and Gannon treating Kyler’s situation as a tryout of sorts?

Are they trying to gauge whether Kyler is a true fit for Drew Petzing’s offense?

Or have they all along been trying to improve Kyler’s trade value?

Let’s take a quick survey of the QBs Drew Petzing has seen as a fit in his offense, to date:

  • Colt McCoy —- no
  • Clayton Tune —- no
  • David Blough —- no
  • Jeff Driskel —- no
  • Familiar face Josh Dobbs —- no
  • Kyler Murray —- ?

Petzing doubled down yesterday by saying how pleased and impressed he has been with Kyler’s assimilation into the offense —- but he said the exact same thing about Dobbs three weeks into his short tenure.

It’s just so odd that Monti Ossenfort’s plan was to have Colt McCoy be the interim starter until Kyler was able to return. It’s beyond odd actually —- it is bizarre. Ossenfort has this uncanny knack for ignoring medical red flags —- as he did with all three of his Day 2 picks in the NFL Draft.

There were three much more obvious choices at QB heading into this season: Jacoby Brissett, Gardner Minshew and Josh Dobbs. All three has connections to either Petzing or Gannon. And all three were affordable.

With a young totally inexperienced OC in Drew Petzing, why wouldn’t the GM want to give him a good head start?

Instead, Ossenfort saddled Petzing with an injured Colt McCoy who was broadcasting XFL games during OTAs. Again —- bizarre.

As for Jonathan Gannon, why didn’t Ossenfort do more to help him and 30 year-old DC Nick Rallis get off to a good start?

Why couldn’t Ossenfort see that hiring a young inexperienced head coach who insisted he not be asked to coordinate the defense or call plays during the games, who in turn hired young inexperienced coordinators that Ossenfort must have agreed to —- that if these young coaches were doomed from the beginning to have to try to change the team culture while losing the vast majority of their games —- how could this possibly evoke the confidence of the players?

One of the most prescient caveats the great Vince Lombardi once iterated was: “Winning is not a sometimes thing: it’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them all the time> Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

As for Gannon, when a team hires a defensive-minded head coach, what’s the point if the team’s defense is one of the worst in the league? Fans and pundits are making the lack of talent excuse, but anyone who understands defensive schemes and game planning, as many of the savvy, knowledgeable Eagles’ fans do, knows when a defense has been poorly prepared for games and key in-game situations.

Gannon’s preparation for defending Sean McVay’s offense was flat-out derelict. It was as if he and Nick Rallis never studied the Rams —- and that’s even after having their own game tape on them for weeks now since the drubbing they took in Los Angeles.

We have been watching some of the worst prolonged stretches of defense imaginable. Like repeats of the second half no-show that Gannon’s defense performed versus the Giants at home with a 20-0 first half lead. Like the second half of the Bengals game at home. Like the 1st half versus the Texans two weeks ago. Like every half this year versus a below average Rams team that has its weakest offensive line in years.

Cardinals fans have been perpetuating a myth that this Gannon team is playing much more inspired football than previous Cardinals’ teams. It’s akin to the myth that Kyzir White, Gannon’s prize UFA from Philly is a “great player.”

Yes, White has flashed brilliantly in some games, like he did sealing the win versus the Cowboys with a timely end zone interception. But, mind you, the very next week versus the 49ers, White was a no-show Here are his game grades per PFF:

  • W1 WAS: 61.6
  • W2 NYG: 77.4
  • W3 DAL: 79.3
  • W$ SF: 26.7
  • W5 CIN: 75.5
  • W6 LAR: 33.4
  • W7 SEA: 67.8
  • W8 BLT: 45.5
  • W9 CLE: 59.9
  • W10 ATL: 67.5
  • W11 HOU: 54.2

Season: 58.9

Like Vince Lombardi said, “winning is not a sometime thing.”

The thing about Kyzir White is —- he’s best suited to play WILB as he did in Philly. He’s a converted safety to ILB. He’s not a proto-typical NFL MIKE.

NFC West MIKE LBers 2023:

  • SF-Fred Warner —- 90.3
  • SEA-Bobby Wagner —- 82.0
  • LAR-Ernest Jones —- 68.7
  • ARZ-Kyzir White —- 58.9

Furthermore, after all of the hype Jonathan Gannon has given Kyler Murray, how can Ossenfort possibly move off of Murray now? How can Gannon save face with the fans whom he has stoked to the high heavens about Kyler Murray, if Ossenfort elects to take his choice for QBOF in this year’s draft?

If they are keeping Kyler for 2024 and beyond, is Kyler in the best possible hands? If not, how then can anyone expect Kyler to improve on his 5-16 record versus the NFC West?

How is Gannon going to improve on his 0-4 record in the NFC West?

Can Gannon, who chooses to coach alone and often aloof on the sidelines, ever be able to match wits in the NFC West with the likes of Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Pete Carroll?

In 4 NFC West games the Cardinals have been outscored 118-49. That’s an average of 29.5 to 12.3.

You know for as much scapegoating as Bidwill and Cardinals fans have heaped on Kliff Kingbsury —- in his first season with the Cardinals he had improved the worst offense in the NFL to 21st with a rookie QB. Then, Kliff followed that up with two seasons in the top 10 of NFL offenses. That’s taking care of his side of the ball.

In the history of the Cardinals franchise, the most successful head coaches were offensive-minded —- from Don Coryell to Ken Whisenunt to Bruce Arians to Kliff Kingsbury.

It just feels mind-boggling to have a new GM hire a controversial, inexperienced defensive -minded head coach, with an inexperienced OC bringing in a new offensive scheme that no one know whether Kyler Murray is a true fit for, when there is so much at stake for the Cardinals at the QB position.

It doesn’t make sense.

Unless, the plan all along has been to move on from Kyler Murray and take the QB whom they believe can be their version of C.J. Stroud and hope that Jonathan Gannon and Nick Rallis can turn around the defense, while Drew Petzing and Israel Woolfork can develop the rookie QB into a budding superstar.

And, by the way, I predict the top two vote getters in the defensive-minded HC poll will be:

  1. Robert Saleh —- because he has Aaron Rodgers for the next two years.
  2. DeMeco Ryans —- because he has a budding superstar at QB in C.J. Stroud.

Brandon Staley has Justin Herbert, but how can the Chargers justify keeping him as HC when his defense is one of the worst in the NFL. If you are a defensive-minded head coach, you had better shine on that side of the ball —- otherwise, what’s the point?

The Washington Post published a super fact-fille article about offensive-minded head coaches today. Here have a good read:

NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds are more likely to succeed - The Washington Post