Much like a spine helps control a body’s electrical system, a good defensive coordinator can control a football team.
But what happens when the spine of a football team is diagnosed with spinal cancer?
That is one of the many questions the Eagles and their fans are waiting for the answer to this year.
Famed Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was diagnosed at the end of last season with Stage IV bone cancer on his spine, eight years after he was treated for skin cancer in the same spot.
The fiery Johnson has been responsible for the team averaging about 50 sacks per season for the past 10 years. His well-regarded blitzes continue to confuse teams season after season.
And he says he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.
“I’m feeling good,” Johnson told the Philadelphia Inquirer Saturday. “I’m still going through treatment. The biggest thing I’m trying to get now is the pain out of my back. I have some broken bones in the lower part. So that doesn’t allow me to be on my feet quite as much. But everything else, I feel fine.”
He has spent training camp stalking the sidelines in his scooter, which is good news for head coach Andy Reid. The big man comes off a season full of controversial decisions, including sitting starting quarterback Donovan McNabb in an attempt to jump-start his play.
He’s also been embattled in his own personal drama, as both of his sons have been arrested -- one for gun possession, the other for drug possesion. Just days ago, Garrett Reid was arrested once again, this time for starting a fight in the halfway house to which he was sentenced.
Nearly a decade since Reid joined the team, fans hope the second most-winning coach in football among those with at least 100 games under their belt, can help sideline the personal drama and bring a strong, united front to the field.
Joining Reid and Johnson in coaching meetings are Marty Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator/assistant head coach, Ted Daisher, special teams coordinator, offensive line coach Juan Castillo, defensive line coach Rory Segrest and quarterbacks coach James Urban, to name a few.
They all face the challenge of meshing veteran Eagles like McNabb and star runningback Brian Westbrook with the rising talent of DeSean Jackson and some of the team's newest members Jeremy Maclin, Stacey Andrews, and Jason Peters.
If the coaching staff is successful at blending all these different personalities, all while keeping the focus on quality playing and not off-the-field antics, Birds fans could find themselves in for quite a ride.