When the Detroit Lions hired Dan Campbell to be their next head coach a few years back, you saw some of the most respected outlets gave the hire an average at best grade. Now here we are in 2023, and the Lions look like frontrunners to win the NFL North. So can Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon follow a similar path as Campbell?
Like Campbell, Gannon wasn’t the most popular or coveted coach on the market. But his upbeat personality and energizing mindset gives him parallels to Campbell.
Also like Campbell, Gannon is tasked with taking over a franchise that has historically seen a culture of losing over much of their existence. And in their present condition, it’s not uncommon to see the Cardinals projected to finish near or at the bottom of the NFL this season, much like Campbell’s Lions in Year 1.
Arizona Cardinals coach can have a Campbell-like beginning in the desert
As I write this, the Lions are heading into Year 3 of the Dan Campbell era, and things couldn’t have started off worse for Detroit’s head coach. If you remember correctly, Campbell started his coaching career with Detroit with a 4-19-1 record, good for a 0.187 winning percentage.
Then the Lions finished a staggering 8-2 and were arguably the NFL’s hottest team over the latter half of the season. While they didn’t earn a playoff berth, the NFL recognized their efforts to the point that they have an opportunity to prove themselves in Week 1 in front of a national audience against the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
I’ll be honest: After Detroit started off 1-6, I thought for sure Campbell was gone. But the Lions kept him around and he rewarded them with an outstanding second half to the 2022 season.
With a new regime and a new outlook in place for the Cardinals, hopefully they are patient with Gannon if the team plays like the 2021 Lions this year, and even the Lions from the first half of 2022 next season. It shows us that, when a coach has a chance to develop players, even amidst a lot of losing for a while, good things can emerge from it.
Gannon already has the high-energy personality and the passion to be a Campbell-like coach. And to be honest, it’s an energy we haven’t seen in the desert for quite some time, and Campbell has already shown in the Motor City what that energy and passion can turn into: Taking a losing franchise and slowly, but steadily, turning them around.
(Historical data provided by Pro-Football-Reference)