Jim Johnson was born on May 26, 1941 in Maywood, Ill. Johnson played college football at the University of Missouri from 1959 to 1962 under head coach Dan Devine. He was an all-Big 8 quarterback. He went undrafted in the 1963 NFL Draft. He was signed by the Buffalo Bills in 1963 to play tight end. He retired in 1964 from professional football.
He started his coaching career as head coach of Missouri Southern (1967-1968). He stayed there for two years before serving four year tenures at both Drake University (1969-1972) and Indiana University (1973-1976). In 1977, Johnson was hired by former coach, Dan Devine, to be defensive backs coach at Notre Dame. He was promoted to defensive coordinator after his first year.
After leaving Notre Dame in 1984, Johnson coached in the USFL (United States Football League) with the Oklahoma Outlaws (1984) and the Jacksonville Bulls (1985).
In 1986, Johnson started his NFL coaching career with the Arizona Cardinals. After four years of being the defensive line coach, he became secondary coach.
After leaving the Cardinals in 1993, Johnson became the linebackers coach at Indianapolis. He became the Colts’ defensive coordinator in 1996. After the Colts finished last place in the division in 1997, the coaching staff was fired. He found a job as Seattle's linebackers coach in 1998 before leaving for Philadelphia.
In 1999, new Eagles head coach Andy Reid targeted Jim Johnson. Andy Reid handed over complete control of the defense to Johnson. From 2000 to 2007, Johnson's unit rank tied for first in NFL with 342 sacks, second in the league in third-down efficiency (34.3 percent) and red zone touchdown percentage (43 percent) and fourth in fewest points allowed (17.6 per game).
In 1999, Johnson's unit forced an NFL-best 46 turnovers, including a team-record five interceptions returned for touchdowns.
In 2001, Johnson's unit became only the fourth team in NFL history to go all 16 games allowing less than 21 points. They went 34 straight games allowing 21 or less points. It is the second-longest such streak in NFL history.
Throughout Johnson's tenure, the Eagles defense racked up 26 Pro Bowl selections. Brian Dawkins led the way with seven selections. Others include Troy Vincent (five), Jeremiah Trotter (four), Hugh Douglas (three), Lito Sheppard (two), Trent Cole, Michael Lewis, Asante Samuel, Corey Simon, and Bobby Taylor (one each).
On January 29, 2009, it was announced that Johnson was undergoing treatment for melanoma. On May 18, Johnson announced he was taking a leave of absence. Sean McDermott was to be the interim defensive coordinator. He was named defensive coordinator on July 24.
On July 28, 2009, the NFL world suffered a significant loss with passing of Jim Johnson.
Johnson will always be remembered for his crazy blitz schemes. He was one of the best defensive coordinators in Philadelphia Eagles history.