Jim Johnson Bound for Football Hall of Fame

Matt ShervingtonCorrespondent IIJuly 28, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles walks off the field during pre-game warmups before their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 21, 2008 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

You can imagine my shock as I sat at my computer in the midst of writing another article as my girlfriend sent me a text message with the horrid words reading: “Jim Johnson died…”

Though I am not an Eagles fan, I do hold them near and dear to my heart as I am a native of Philadelphia and everyone in my family besides me and my cousin that resides in Washington, D.C., are fans of the team.

The reason I held so much respect for the Eagles is because of Jim Johnson and his amazing looks given from the defensive perspective.

There aren’t any pure coordinators in the National Football League Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio as far as I am aware of. But, eventually there will be three of them.

Jim Johnson is one of those three.

Jim Johnson (alongside Dick LeBeau, Rex Ryan and Monte Kiffin) was one of the four defensive coordinators in the league whose respective defense was always amongst the tops in every defensive statistic, metric, and measurable.

While Kiffin has a Super Bowl title as a coordinator and Ryan has gone on to become a head coach, it is my belief that of those four, LeBeau and Johnson were just on another level.

While Dick LeBeau may have the Super Bowl titles to his name and arguments for being the coordinator of some of the better defenses all time, one would be hard pressed to forget that Johnson’s accomplishments are just a slight step behind.

It was Johnson, not LeBeau, whose Seahawks held the record for most points scored by a defense in a season in 1998. It was Johnson who started the “Hybrid Safety Revolution” with Brian Dawkins. Dick LeBeau copied Johnson’s blueprint in making Troy Polamalu the safety he is today.  

Johnson is the guy who has made the Eagles defense, at worst, the third-best defense this decade. Testament to this are the numbers provided via Eagles.com

During the Jim Johnson era, the Philadelphia Eagles averaged a ridiculously high 43 sacks per season under Johnson’s zone-blitz system, good for third over the decade.

Additionally, they ranked third over the decade in third-down conversion percentage with a whoppingly low 34 percent and red zone touchdown percentage (43.9 percent).

During the Johnson era, the Birds allowed only 17.7 points per game, that’s fourth in the league over that period. The Eagles official Web site is hinging on the Eagles’ total number of defensive Pro Bowlers this decade as testament to his skill as a coach, but I would like to point them out by position.

Nineteen of the 26 Pro Bowl bids that Eagles defenders have received have been in the positions that Johnson excels at coaching in his zone-blitz scheme. Seventeen of those nominations were for a fefensive back and two of them were for defensive ends.

This should show you how darn good the Eagles’ zone-blitz scheme was.

Want even more testament to how good Johnson was as a defensive coordinator? Look around the NFL.  

Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams was an assistant to Johnson after leaving for the rival Giants. Under “Spags” as the coordinator, the Giants won a Super Bowl.

John Harbaugh left the gaze of Johnson last offseason and went on to take a rookie-lead Ravens team to the AFC Championship with a completely mangled secondary.

Ron Rivera remains the defensive coordinator or the Chargers, and while he doesn’t employ a zone-blitz style or an aggressive defense, he maintains Johnson’s dictum that third down is a blitzing down as opposed to a passive one.

Finally, former Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, now the head coach of the Vikings took former Johnson assistant Leslie Frazier with him to Minnesota after Mike Tomlin’s departure. Frazier has since then earned consideration for head coaching positions around the league.

At the end of the day, there’s no denying that Jim Johnson has a hall of fame resume.

Johnson is associated with the 1998 Seahawks, which is one of the best scoring defenses of all time. He adapted LeBeau’s zone-blitz scheme into the 4-3 defense and fielded the best pure 4-3 defense of the decade.

He produced numerous Pro Bowlers and All-Pros in the secondary due to the pressure and confusion provided by the aforementioned zone-blitz. He single-handedly changed the safety position from being an afterthought to a focal point of a defense, thus making guys like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu relevant.

Finally, he passed down his legacy, unlike LeBeau and Kiffin, to successors all of which have had success. When coordinators are allowed into the hall, Jim Johnson should be one of the first let in.