TEMPE – During a week of introductions, the injection of youth into the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff has dominated conversations. That theme continued Thursday when new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing took the podium for his introductory news conference.
New defensive coordinator Nick Rallis deftly handled the first round of questions about the experience required for success in a key coaching role as the NFL’s youngest coordinator.
A day later, Petzing doubled down on coach Jonathan Gannon’s belief that “experience is not synonymous with knowledge,” as the young coaching staff looks to turn around an organization that finished last in the NFC West with a 4-13 record.
“I think ultimately, it’s about your knowledge or capacity, your desire to make players better regardless of whether you’re 25, 50 or 55,” Petzing, 35, said. “So I wouldn’t expect it to be drastically different from any other staff with good motivated coaches and winning along the way.”
If not age, the new Cardinals coaches have familiarity going for them. Gannon and Petzing coached together with the Minnesota Vikings for four seasons. After Gannon left to become the Indianapolis Colts defensive backs coach in 2018, Rallis joined the Vikings as a defensive quality control coach and spent two seasons with his new offensive counterpart.
“I was fortunate we were not playing in the playoffs,” said Petzing, the Cleveland Browns’ quarterbacks coach last season. “I was at home and I was watching the game. After the game, I got the call that there was a possibility that I could get an interview so I had to start preparing quickly. I had the opportunity to interview a year ago, so there was some prep that was done and tried. To put myself in a position that if it ever happened again, then I would be ready.”
Petzing has spent his first week on the job in the locker room getting to know his new players, but perhaps his most important meeting was with Kyler Murray.
Petzing knows the importance of establishing a strong relationship with the Cardinals star quarterback will be a key to his success in the coordinator role.
“I think he’s a really talented player,” Petzing said. “That was one of the appealing things about this job to me was being able to work with a quarterback of his caliber, but it’s about the entire offense and ultimately the entire team. It’s not just going to be about him. He knows that, and I think Jonathan knows as an organization, we will reach that.”
Murray is expected to miss the first part of the season, but Gannon noted the work the quarterback has put in this offseason at the team’s Tempe facility.
“He’s a franchise quarterback for a reason, he’s committed to doing his job,” Gannon said. “So he does what he needs to do to put his team in a position to win. … It’s not just like, ‘Hey Kyler, I’m your head coach, trust me,’ so I think all the relationships with the players and the coaches as we just started meeting with staff and things like that takes a little bit of time, but what keeps oozing through this guy is his competitiveness.”
Gannon structured the majority of his interview questions around Murray, understanding that whoever filled the role needed an understanding of working with quarterbacks.
Petzing fit the criteria.
“I’m 100% confident (that Petzing will fill the offensive void),” Gannon said. “That’s why he’s sitting next to me.”
Although the timetable for Murray’s return is unknown, both coaches mentioned that the uncertainty creates “unique challenges” that the staff will work through together.
“I think that’s the nature of the NFL business,” Petzing said. “Rarely the first 11 that you actually deal with in September end the season in January. So you got to be ready to adjust and certainly the experience last year taught me a lot about how to do that. And certainly going to use that knowledge here in Arizona.”
Although Petzing signed this past weekend, preparations already are underway for the season, beginning with team meetings.
“A big part of that vision is adapting to the players on the field and making sure that we’re doing things and putting them in a position to be successful, to do things that are talented, their strengths and to make it hard on the defensive line,” Petzing said. “I think as we look at our opponents for next year, as we start to move through the offseason, get out on the field and see what guys are good at. That’s going to be a big part of that process.
But I think it’s an ever-evolving process as we move through the offseason and we’re going to be as good as we need to be coming into the season.”