clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Cardinals’ new coaching staff is long on promise but short on experience

Arizona’s coaching staff is seemingly nearly complete. Jonathan Gannon has lured several intriguing young names to the desert. But there’s no denying this staff is inexperienced. Will that be a problem for the team?

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Jonathan Gannon (40) and Nick Rallis (29) will hope to turn the Cardinals defense around in 2023.
Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The past week or so has been a busy one for the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously, the long head coaching search ended with the hiring of Jonathan Gannon, formerly the defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia Eagles.

After his energetic yet awkward introduction, he got to work building his coaching staff. One of the first moves was, thankfully, parting ways with Vance Joseph. (He did elect to keep Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers, though.) From there, he started filling out the rest of the staff with a definite theme in mind.

Young and full of promise is one way of looking at it. Green and inexperienced is another. Take a look at the table below to see what I mean.

Arizona Cardinals Coaching Experience

Coach Position Age Years of NFL Coaching Experience Years of NFL Experience at Current Coaching Level
Coach Position Age Years of NFL Coaching Experience Years of NFL Experience at Current Coaching Level
Jonathan Gannon Head Coach 40 12 0
Drew Petzing Offensive Coordinator 35 10 0
Nick Rallis Defensive Coordinator 29 5 0
Jeff Rodgers Special Teams Coordinator 44 19 13
Israel Woolfork Quarterbacks Coach 32 2 0
Drew Terrell* TBD (likely Wide Receivers Coach and/or Passing Game Coordinator) 31 5 2
Ben Steele Tight Ends Coach 44 9 3
Klayton Adams Offensive Line Coach 40 4 0
Sam Siefkes** Linebackers Coach 34 2 0
Ryan Smith*** Cornerbacks Coach 30 0 0
Patrick Toney Safeties Coach 32 0 0
Average 35.5 6.2 1.6

* If Terrell is hired as Passing Game Coordinator, he does not have any experience at that coaching level and the average in the last column would drop to 1.5.

** Siefkes’s age doesn’t seem to be readily available online; 34 is a ballpark figure if he started his coaching career in 2012.

*** I couldn’t find Smith’s age either. I figure he’s about 30 since he graduated college in 2014.

Yeah, this is a GREEN coaching staff so far. The average age is under 36 with only about 6 years of NFL experience and an astounding less than 2 years of experience at their current coaching level. The only member of the staff with meaningful experience at their current coaching level is Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who has 13 years under his belt. No one else has more than 2 or 3 years—and the head coach and both coordinators have no NFL experience in those roles.

Of course, the staff isn’t complete yet, and Gannon could still hire a veteran to coach the running backs or defensive line. We could also bring aboard any number of assistants/advisors/consultants, kind of like when we brought Tom Clements on board in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. Those average numbers could certainly rise.

But it still can’t be denied that this staff is awfully… young and lacking experience. The question is… is this a problem?

Recent NFL history tells us… not necessarily. Take a look at the table below.

Recent Young SB Coaching Staffs

Season Team (Result) HC (Age) OC (Age) DC (Age) Other Notable Young Assistants (Age)
Season Team (Result) HC (Age) OC (Age) DC (Age) Other Notable Young Assistants (Age)
2018-2019 Los Angeles Rams (L) Sean McVay (33) N/A Wade Phillips (72) Zac Taylor (35), Ejiro Evero (38)
2019-2020 San Francisco 49ers (L) Kyle Shanahan (40) Mike LaFleur (32) Robert Saleh (41) Mike McDaniel (36), DeMeco Ryans (35)
2021-2022 Los Angeles Rams (W) Sean McVay (36) Kevin O'Connell (36) Raheem Morris (45) Ejiro Evero (41)
2021-2022 Cincinnati Bengals (L) Zac Taylor (38) Brian Callahan (37) Lou Anarumo (55) N/A
2022-2023 Philadelphia Eagles (L) Nick Sirianni (41) Shane Steichen (37) Jonathan Gannon (40) Nick Rallis (29)

Just in the past 5 years we’ve had 5 teams with similarly youthful coaching staffs make it to the Super Bowl. I didn’t do a deep dive into each staff’s previous experience like I did for the Cardinals this year, but you can assume the experience would be similar given these coach’s ages. A couple other interesting points:

  • It’s worth noting that only one of these teams actually won the championship—and McVay’s Rams had to lose first before they got to the mountaintop. But we could easily see the likes of Shanahan, Taylor, and Sirianni repeat that feat in the near future. These teams all seem to be in really good shape, coaching-wise, moving forward.
  • The other Super Bowl winning coaches during this time frame are future Hall of Famers Bill Belichick (70), Bruce Arians (70), and Andy Reid (64) twice. So don’t go throwing dirt on the graves of older coaches just yet.
  • The defensive coordinators skew much older than the HCs/OCs—Phillips at 72 and Anarumo at 55 especially stand out. But the Cardinals bucked that trend, hiring the babyfaced Rallis (just 29!) as our DC. He was a buzzy name around the league and no one is really knocking the hire yet, but 29 is YOUNG compared to what we are seeing here.

So this ultra-youthful coaching staff Gannon is putting together might not be a cause for concern. In addition to these teams, there are similarly young coaching staffs for the Chargers, Dolphins, Lions, and Vikings who all seem to have their teams on upwards trajectories. Maybe this young, hungry, promising staff is just the group to get the Cardinals back into the playoff mix in a season or two. After all, even though we all know how it ended, Kliff Kingsbury was younger than Gannon is now when we hired him, and he took us to the playoffs within three seasons (although it should have been two).

But his tenure was also riddled with issues with preparation, game management, and player accountability—things that largely aren’t (well, shouldn’t be, anyway) issues with established veteran coaches. You have to worry that some of these issues will repeat themselves with this very inexperienced staff. Who are, so to speak, the adults in the room who can help Gannon with these areas? Rodgers is the closest thing, but I’m not really sure he’s that guy. Even Kliff had Vance Joseph, a former head coach, to lean on. Does anyone on this staff have head coaching experience at any level? That’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

All that said, I’m feeling slightly better about this coaching staff now than I did when I started researching/writing this piece. Seeing how other, similarly young/inexperienced coaching staffs have achieved success in recent seasons has somewhat assuaged my initial concerns. But I would feel a lot better if we added at least one veteran position coach/advisor/consultant in the next week or two to be that adult in the room.

What about you, RotBers? How are you feeling about this coaching staff’s youth and (lack of) experience? Vote in the poll below and in the comments like you always do.


How concerned are you about the inexperience of the Cardinals coaching staff so far?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Not concerned at all
    (88 votes)
  • 44%
    A little concerned but not overly
    (118 votes)
  • 11%
    Fairly concerned
    (32 votes)
  • 11%
    Very concerned
    (30 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now