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DC to HC

Will Gannon succeed in Arizona?

We've talked a little here about former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon might fare as the head coach in Arizona. For a deeper dive, I thought I'd take a look at how other defensive coordinators have fared as head coaches in their first seasons with team.

Since 2010, there have been 20 other coaches to make the leap from defensive coordinator to head coaches. Four of them (including three last year) were in-house promotions, but 16 were like Gannon -- successful (for the most part) defensive coordinators being handed the reins to a new team. The two most recent examples of that prior to Gannon were Brandon Staley with the Chargers and Robert Saleh with the Jets. Early returns on those guys, it must be noted, aren't great.

Previous 14 is kind of a mixed bag. Some of those guys have been pretty successful, at least in terms of taking new teams to the playoffs. Sean McDermott in Buffalo, Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, and Mike Zimmer in Minnesota come to mind. Dan Quinn in Atlanta, too; eventually he'll get another head coaching opportunity. If Gannon can follow those guys, the Cardinals will be happy.

Others washed out pretty quickly. Gus Bradley, Mike Pettine, Matt Patricia. Vic Fangio had some good defenses in Denver, but generally was a disappointment. Steve Wilks was one and done in Arizona.

In the table, Coaches' final years as defensive coordinator before getting head coaching jobs are shown, with team wins and points allowed (ranks) shown. 13 of the last 18 to get head coaching jobs oversaw defenses ranked 11th or better in scoring defense. Table then shows team wins and points allowed in their first seasons as head coaches. If those teams won either 10 games or finished in the top 12 in points allowed, they're in bold.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS TO HEAD COACHES, 2010-PRESENT
CoachYearDCWPtsNextHCWPts
Jonathan Gannon2022Phi.148th2023Ari.??
Matt Eberflus2021Ind.99th2022Chi.332nd
Lovie Smith2021Hou.427th2022Hou.3.527th
Dennis Allen2021N.O.94th2022N.O.79th
Todd Bowles2021T.B.135th2022T.B.813th
Brandon Staley2020LAR101st2021LAC930th
Robert Saleh2020S.F.617th2021NYJ432nd
Vic Fangio2018Chi.121st2019Den.710th
Steve Wilks2017Car.1111th2018Ari.326th
Matt Patricia2017N.E.135th2018Det.616th
Mike Vrabel2017Hou.432nd2018Ten.93rd
Sean McDermott2016Car.626th2017Buf.918th
Vance Joseph2016Mia.1018th2017Den.522nd
Dan Quinn2014Sea.121st2015Atl.814th
Todd Bowles2014Ari.115th2015NYJ109th
Mike Pettine2013Buf.620th2014Cle.79th
Mike Zimmer2013Cin.115th2014Min.611th
Gus Bradley2012Sea.111st2013Jac.428th
Chuck Pagano2011Bal.123rd2012Ind.1123rd
Dennis Allen2011Den.824th2012Oak.429th
Leslie Frazier2010Min.618th2011Min.331st

Five of the above coaches -- Frazier, Pagano, Bowles, Quinn and most recently Staley -- went on to win at least 10 games in year 2. But of those guys only Pagano, with the Colts, had a top-12 defense (points allowed). Staley, most notably, has struggled to put together a good defense with the Chargers. Saleh's Jets ranked 4th in points allowed last season, but his team went only 7-10. To this point he's installed a sound defense, but has yet to be a winner as a head coach (and is probably entering a make-or-break season).

--Andy Richardson

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