Right about now, a large contingent of Arizona Cardinals fans are feeling downright silly. Back in January, a whole bunch of us were begging owner Michael Bidwill to hire Sean Payton to be the team's next head coach. After all, the New Orleans Saints won Super Bowl XLIV with Payton at the helm, and many of us believed he could do the same in the Arizona desert.
In retrospect, the "Valley of the Sun" may have dodged a speeding bullet. It's certainly a small sample size, but it sure does seem that Payton did the Cardinals a huge favor by spurning them. The 59-year-old decided to go with the franchise that was offering the most money, and the Denver Broncos handed Payton a boatload of cash that Bidwill was never going to come close to.
We're just three weeks into the 2023 campaign, but Denver may already be regretting the decision they made to acquire Payton. The new era of Broncos football got underway with uninspiring home defeats to both the Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Commanders. Then, in Week 3, Payton presided over a squad that hit an all-time low.
Everyone who follows the NFL is talking about Denver's 70-20 loss to the high-flying Miami Dolphins. Vance Joseph, the Broncos defensive coordinator, watched in horror as Miami reached the end zone a jaw-dropping 10 times. The fact that Payton would've retained Joseph as the boss of the Arizona defense was enough of a reason in itself to go in another direction for a head coach.
Jonathan Gannon has the Arizona Cardinals on an upward trajectory
The "direction" that Cards general manager Monti Ossenfort elected to go in is not working out too badly. Jonathan Gannon is doing fantastic, especially when you consider that he's feeling his way through the job. Drew Petzing and Nick Rallis, Gannon's hand-picked coordinators, have also been outstanding.
In reality, Gannon (1-2) is just one victory ahead of Payton (0-3) in the win-loss column. The difference between the two coaches has been night and day, however. Gannon's Cardinals could just as easily be 3-0, while the last-place slot that Payton's Broncos currently occupy in the AFC West is well-deserved.
Many Arizona enthusiasts, including yours truly, were crushed when we got the news that Payton was headed to the "Mile High City". The disappointment was compounded even more when Gannon was handed the Cards gig. Based on the results thus far, those of us in the "Red Sea" will gladly admit we were wrong.