Jim Johnson Was One of the Good Guys: A Tribute to the Late Eagles DC

Rupert PupkinCorrespondent IJuly 29, 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)

Andy Reid used the words sincere, direct, and honest to describe defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who passed away due to melanoma around 5:45 this afternoon.

But perhaps Coach Reid forgot Johnson's greatest trait, the one that made him stand out from every other defensive coordinator—fearlessness.

Jim Johnson was the most fearless football coach I've ever had the privilege to watch.

I think one game tells his story best. It was a game that Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Didinger reminded me of earlier this afternoon—a 2007 Sunday night loss to New England, one of the league's great offensive powerhouses.

For the entire season, teams played New England scared. They didn't blitz. They played a cautious, lazy defense.

But Johnson came in with his fearless approach, blitzing nearly every play. It worked; Tom Brady felt the pressure. The Eagles defense gave them a chance to pull the upset of the year.

It didn't turn out that way though, with troubles offensively. The Eagles lost 31-28, but Johnson's defense was of no fault.

Though Johnson's scheme didn't win that game for him, it was tried by other teams around the league, most notably by Johnson's former understudy Steve Spagnuolo in Super Bowl XLII, where Spagnuolo's Giants went on to shock the world, beating the undefeated Patriots.

He went in and tried something unprecedented. He was fearless, and it made him great.

Off the field, he was a great person too.

He shaped not only the football lives of so many of his defensive students, but their real lives as well.

He kept them focused on one collective goal—winning.

“There’s been no finer coach or man than Jim Johnson,” owner Jeffrey Lurie said Tuesday night. “He was just an incredible gem from day one.”

That just about sums it up.

Jim Johnson was one of the good guys.