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Eagles Didn't Hire a Scheme with Jonathan Gannon

The Eagles' new DC plans of installing schemes to fit his talent

PHILADELPHIA - If you're hiring a scheme, you're doing it wrong.

That's the conventional wisdom in the NFL right now and something to which most organizations subscribe. The problem lies in finding coaches malleable enough to want to avoid pounding the square peg in the round hole.

Eagles’ first-year defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon delivered a favorable first impression Thursday, insisting his philosophy on defensive football is about accentuating the strengths of the players he's got at his disposal.

While acknowledging the impact Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer and Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus had on him en route to his own development as a coach, Gannon also explained "everyone runs the same stuff for the most part."

"It's not what you do, it's how you do it," said Gannon.

Zimmer is regarded as one of the craftiest defensive minds in football, the godfather of sugaring the A-gaps and a so-called cornerback whisper who has all of a sudden developed into a high-level teacher when it comes to overload blitzes as well.

The foundation of Gannon's philosophy is built on the teachings of Zimmer.

"My first guy that I worked for in the NFL when I was defensive quality control in Atlanta, was Mike Zimmer," said Gannon. "...Then kind of went our separate ways and then got back with him in Minnesota. So off the top of my head, Coach Zimmer was a huge influence on me, and he was a DB guy to start by trade. So that was pretty cool."

Gannon graduated from being an assistant DBs coach with the Vikings into a full-time position coach with the Colts under Eberflus.

"Obviously, in Indy, a completely different system under Matt Eberflus, and I feel like he really helped me fill in some gaps as far as what you guys asked, like what do you want your defense to look like?" Gannon said. 

"When you turn on the tape, like what do you want to see? What does the owner want to see? What does the head coach want to see, a la the HITS principle, and learned a different style of play different from Coach Zimmer."

The HITS principle is hustle, intensity, takeaways, and smartness.

That's Gannon's vision and how he gets there depends on what he has on a given game day.

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"I think that, with what Coach Zim did [the A-gap looks], that was his way to put pressure on the offense," said Gannon. "... He had a whole package off of it. But that package was based on the players that we had at the time. So are we going to do some of that? Yeah, probably. We'll probably do some of that. If it fits to what our players can do and what is good versus the team that we're playing."

There will be curveballs from Gannon, though.

"Coach Zimmer has a very specific vision of how he wants to play defense, and I agree with a lot of that vision," he said. "Not to say that we're going to be exactly what Mike Zimmer was because I feel like there's a lot of other good things that I've learned throughout the years that complement actually what Zims does. That would be my answer to that.

"That's probably part of our package, but we're not going to box ourselves into one scheme."

Other coaches put their stamp on Gannon as well.

"Emmitt Thomas, I was under him for a year. Jerry Gray, I was under him for multiple years, two guys that have played secondary at a very high level in the NFL," Gannon said. "That was eye-opening to me to say, 'Hey, I believe in this technique for corners, but it's not one size fits all.' So every player you have is different, and it's our job to say, hey, this is what works for you. You can do that."

Gannon believes he's got a staff that's bought into his philosophy.

"That's what I love about our staff, we're not hardheaded," he said. "It's my way or the highway. That's not what this is about. It's about serving the players and getting them to hit their ceiling.

"Why? Because it's the best thing for the team and the defense, point-blank."

If that seems obvious understand common sense is not all that common around the NFL at times.

"We're going to do everything - we take that mentality with everything that we do," he said. "If we're going to walk up and press, well, this guy might not do the same thing that another guy does, or if we're going to play off, well, this guy might play a little bit different than this other guy.

"So I think it's all about arming our players, seeing what they do, arming them with tools to put in their toolbox to be successful."

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.