PHOENIX – The offseason for the Arizona Cardinals has been anything but quiet.
Before free agency began earlier this month, the Cardinals first made headlines for the hiring of coach Jonathan Gannon, then for being ranked 31st by the NFLPA on an annual evaluation that graded the experience of players in areas from the treatment of their families to the team’s facilities.
On Monday, one day before Gannon sat down to address the media for the first time since his introductory press conference, more news hit headlines as DeAndre Hopkins reportedly received permission from the Cardinals to seek a trade as rumors ramped up in the past few weeks surrounding his future.
The new coach spoke only optimistically into the microphones stationed at the tables around a conference room at the Arizona Biltmore when addressing the topic of the team’s star wide receiver.
“Right now, I’m operating on the premise that Hop is starting ‘X’ and people are going to have to defend him,” Gannon said Tuesday. “That is probably a better question for Monti (Ossenfort, the Cardinals’ general manager), and I’m looking forward to getting to work with him, too.”
Gannon and Ossenfort’s collaborative skills will be tested on April 27, when the duo will be on the clock to decide who to take or trade with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Gannon, who served as defensive coordinator in Philadelphia the last two seasons, is no stranger to the draft room but noted that whenever he was called into a room, the offensive guy would win.
This time, however, his opinion figures to carry a lot more sway as a head coach for the first time.
“I’m excited about all the prospects, if they’re No. 3 overall or in the sixth round,” Gannon said. “When I evaluate players, I try to visualize how we’re going to use them. If we are sitting at three great, I’ll be excited. If we’re not sitting at three, great, I’ll be excited.”
Gannon’s evaluation process started long before taking over the head coaching role in Arizona and will intensify in the coming weeks. Gannon has worked with some of his current players on different teams in the past, including linebacker Kyzir White and wide receiver Zach Pascal, both former Eagles who were among the eight free agents signed by the club.
Starting linemen Kelvin Beachum and Will Hernandez each signed two-year extensions and will be tasked with protecting reserve quarterback Colt McCoy until starter Kyler Murray returns from the torn ACL he suffered last season in Week 14.
Good news for Cardinals fans: Murray should return good as new, according to Gannon. Whenever that might be.
“He (Kyler) has attacked his rehab,” Gannon said. “He is doing everything he needs to do and he’s champing at the bit to get back. … We are not concerned with a timeline. There is a long time before we line up and play a game, but when Kyler is fully ready to play mentally and physically, that’s when he’ll play.”
Gannon also responded to questions about the organization’s poor NFL Players Association “Team Report Card” with a curious response.
“I still haven’t read the report card,” Gannon said. “No decision that I make is going to be predicated on a report card, media story, or narrative out there. I don’t do business like that.
“We will evaluate how we want to evaluate things and then make changes from there. I had a really good conversation with some of the players, and I’ve been around some of these guys before with different teams, and I’m always going to listen to the player about certain things. They said a couple of things that they thought could be better and a couple of things that we do really well that they wanted to make sure I kept in place.”
The future of Hopkins with the club is just one of the tough decisions the Cardinals have to address in the weeks ahead, but Gannon said the opportunity he has to coach the team is a dream come true and he is soaking up every second of it.
“I like juggling the different avenues of being a head coach, and it is still a honeymoon phase a little bit, I’m not going to lie,” Gannon said. “There are going to be things that come across my desk that are going to be tough to deal with, but it’s been good, and I’m settled in.”