Jim Johnson, arguably one of the most intelligent defensive coordinators this game has ever seen, will take a leave of absence as he recovers from skin cancer. In his place for the time being is Sean McDermott, a longtime assistant in the Philadelphia Eagles organization.
On the surface, this is a psychological blow to the defense. Not to diminish the job Johnson has done in his tenure as the Eagles' defensive coordinator, but McDermott has been in the organization since 2000.
Not lost in all of this is the fact that in the nine years McDermott has been a member of the coaching staff, he has learned under Johnson; thus leaving little doubt in his ability to execute the defense properly.
To see the success of former Eagles assistants in the Andy Reid era is reassurance that this time will not be much different in terms of success. Steve Spagnuolo, now a rookie head coach of the St. Louis Rams, engineered the New York Giants defense that shocked the world against the vaunted New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Spagnuolo, mentored by Johnson, has proven to be a more than competent defensive mind.
McDermott will have to face the question of how to motivate a high ranked defense that lost its leader, safety Brian Dawkins, to free agency. He has to take hold of the reins immediately to make an impact with this unit. With his past coaching history as a secondary coach, look for McDermott to turn to the likes of safety Quintin Mikell or even the more veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown, if he is still on the roster when the season kicks off.
How the defense will react to the change from the grandfatherly Johnson to their age equilvalent in McDermott will determine how this defense responds when its back is against the wall. Will they step up and make a big stop for Johnson, or will they let the advisement of McDermott go in one ear and out the other?
McDermott may not have years of experience on his side like Johnson, but familiarity with him may bring the defense closer to him in regards of respect.
Overall, this move will be hard to digest at first glance. However, based on track records it should be a smooth transition for the Philadelphia defense.