This time last year was a time of uncertainty for the Eagles. All Eagles fans were praying for the man who was the mastermind of the Eagles defense for over a decade.
Of course I am talking about the Philadelphia Eagles one and only:
Jim Johnson was suffering from a case of melanoma (first diagnosed in 2001), which was reported earlier in the 2008 season as “problems” with his back. It wasn’t until after the season was over that the Eagles released that it became spinal cancer.
It was then announced around May 18, 2009 that Sean McDermott was taking over the responsibilities as defensive coordinator until Jim Johnson was able to hold the reigns of the “E-fence” once again.
Then on July 24, 2009 the Eagles announced that Sean McDermott was permanently taking over as the defensive coordinator. This caused many to fear that Jim Johnson had taken a turn for the worse.
The Fears became a reality just four days later on July 28, 2009 when Johnson passed.
The Eagles Owner and Chairman, Jeffery Lurie released this statement:
"For ten years, Jim Johnson was an exceptional coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, but more importantly, he was an outstanding human being. Jim epitomized the traits of what a great coach should be—a teacher, a leader and a winner. He positively touched the lives of so many people in and out of the Eagles organization. It was easy to feel close to him. We will miss him greatly."
And greatly the Eagles have missed him.
It has been a few days short of one year since the passing of Johnson and he is still loved and still missed. He was highly noted as one of, if not, “THE” best defensive coordinator in the league. He was not “Big talk” among fans around the league, but around the experts and coaches of opposing teams, he was not only a nightmare to out think, but a great man all around.
Here are a few things that have been said about Jim Johnson after his passing:
“A veteran of 22 years as an NFL assistant, Johnson was considered one of the top defensive minds in the league, known for complex schemes that confused opponents and pressured the quarterback from every angle. His defenses consistently ranked among the best in the league, including last season , when the Eagles finished third in total defense and fell one victory short of the Super Bowl.”- Associated Press
"He was a teacher to many players both on and off the field and devoted his life to the game of football. He had a positive influence on scores of young men, and leaves behind a wonderful legacy." - Rodger Goodell
"I loved Jim Johnson. He had a special ability to bring out the best in people while getting you to see the best in yourself. He saw potential and developed it. He made me believe I could coach at this level. In football, he was a pioneering and brilliant strategist, changing the way defense is played in the NFL. For me, he was a father-type mentor, and above all, a cherished friend. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. I will miss him so much." - John Harbaugh
"Jim meant the world to me, both personally and professionally. I am very blessed to have had the privilege to work for him and with him. The NFL has lost a good man." - Steve Spagnuolo
"He was great to work with and for, and he had his priorities in order. His players loved to play for him and his coaches loved to coach with him. It is a sad day for the National Football League to lose somebody the quality of Jim Johnson. It is a sad note on which to start the season." – Tom Coughlin
“Jim was tailor-made to coach in Philadelphia. He was a tough coach who wasn’t afraid to let you know how he was feeling, but at the same time, he cared about us deeply.” – Brian Dawkins
"This whole Eagles-Andy Reid regime here that's taken place wouldn't have been possible without Jim. I'm not sure there's a person that I've met that isn't a Jim Johnson fan. He really represented everything this city is all about with his toughness and grit. That's the way he fought this cancer." – Andy Reid
"What haven't I learned from Jim? I don't think it would be fair to Jim, in this setting, to try and limit in one statement, one press conference, the effect that Jim has had on my life. There is one thing I know, and that is that this system, it works," McDermott said. "Jim has spent a considerable amount of time in his coaching career researching and finding things that work and finding things that didn't work, quite frankly, and I'm going to respect that and we're going to build on that. From there, we'll add wrinkles." – Sean McDermott
As you can see, this man had a huge effect on the National Football League. He has changed the game in his very own special way. His brilliance has influenced the way that many coaches think and coach today. His scheme was built not on the strength of his team, but more on the weakness of the opponent. He would call a blitz at any moment of the game just to keep the opposing team on their toes. When it came to the blitz, he was a master of disguise yet, he was always conscience of a pass.
Jim helped inspire and amplify the abilities of current and past Eagles players such as Brian Dawkins, Roderick Hood, Michael Lewis, Quintin Mikell, Hugh Douglas, Mike Patterson, Mark Simoneau, Hollis Thomas, and Jeremiah Trotter—Just to name a few. He coached the game with a passion that was passed onto the players and will never be forgotten.
Sean McDermott has held the reigns of the Eagles defense for a year now. During that year, he has proven himself as a good student by surviving a season of uncertainty. During his first year, Sean was still able to lead a strong defense without a viable replacement for Brian Dawkins and also missing many starters and key defensive players due to injury. I expect a step up this year.
As a fan, a human, and a lover of football, I glad so see the reigns of such an important role of the Eagles passed down to a student of Jim Johnson. I hope that Sean McDermott holds true to his statement that he will continue to improve on the basics of Johnson’s System.
I feel that Jim has been an inspiration to many of players, coaches, and fans around the league. In the upcoming weeks please remember to raise a glass or lay down a flower in remembrance of one of the best coaches of the NFL.
In closing I would like to add just one more thing of my own.