With the Philadelphia Eagles announcing today that Sean McDermott will become the team’s new defensive coordinator, I wanted to take a minute to send our thoughts and prayers to the family of longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Johnson is battling cancer, and McDermott originally was named interim defensive coordinator in his absence this offseason.
If there is ever a Coordinators Wing in the Hall of Fame (and frankly there probably should be), then of this modern era of defensive coaches, Johnson and Pittsburgh’s Dick LeBeau should be first-ballot entrants. At least part of Johnson’s genius was in disguising his blitzes and having just the right call at the right time to confuse and blow up opposing offenses. As someone who has covered a lot of NFC East football, the chess match between Johnson and the offensive play-caller was always a delicious subplot to games. McDermott, part of a growing crop of wunderkind coaches in this league, will have a huge void to fill.
The Eagles will hold a press conference Saturday afternoon, at which time I assume we will learn more about Johnson’s condition. Above all else, we wish the Johnson family all of the best.
McDermott, 35, joins Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and Ravens coach John Harbaugh as up-and-comers to train under Johnson. McDermott had success coaching the secondary and linebackers under Johnson and is very well thought of. There is no substitute for experience, however, especially as a play-caller. McDermott becomes another in a growing list of guys who graduated high school after me to get big positions on coaching staffs and front offices, and this transition means that every NFC defense will have changed play-callers since 2007 (new coordinators in New York, Washington and Philly since then, and Wade Phillips taking over play-calling duties in Dallas last season).
Philadelphia’s tradition of aggressive blitzing and intricate packages should continue, and Johnson’s impact on the game will continue even if he isn’t on the sidelines himself.