I wanted to take a moment to point out how many people around the league were touched by Jim Johnson, longtime NFL coach, and how saddened they are by his passing. Johnson lost his battle with cancer Tuesday, leaving a tremendous void in the Philadelphia Eagles’ organization, where he ran the defense since 1999.
As I mentioned last week, I believe there should be more consideration given to innovative coordinators and assistant coaches for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Johnson is of that class. Watching his defenses, trying to figure out what he would do next, observing the chess match he played with offensive play-callers was something I truly enjoyed, and you can look around the league and find his handprints. The defense the New York Giants used to win Super Bowl XLII under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was very similar to Johnson’s — Spagnuolo is just one shining star in Johnson’s coaching family tree — but while many have tried to adopt his aggressive and confounding blitz packages, few have the gameday chops to pull off the magical call at the perfect time, as Johnson so often did.
The timing of Johnson’s death, at age 68, was unfortunate on so many levels, including the fact that it came on a day when there were so many NFL stories making news. But the reality is that, within the NFL family, many are grieving the loss of a friend and mentor, and his imprint on the game we all love so much lives on.