Legendary Defensive Coordinator Passes Away
Jim Johnson (AP)
Jim Johnson (AP)
Senior NFL Reporter
Posted Jul 28, 2009


Philadelphia sports fans have lost one of their most legendary coaches the city has ever had step on a football field.

Long-time Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has passed away, the team announced Tuesday. Johnson, who was battling cancer, was 68.

A veteran of 22 years as an NFL assistant, Johnson is regarded as one of the top defensive masterminds in National Football League history. Over the last decade, he gained a great deal of notoriety as the orchestrator of the renowned Eagles defense. His aggressive style kept Philadelphia at or near the top of the NFL in nearly every major defensive category since joining Andy Reid’s staff on January 22, 1999.

From 2000-08, Johnson's units ranked 2nd in the NFL in sacks (390), 3rd down efficiency (34.0%) and red zone touchdown percentage (43.9%), and fourth in fewest points allowed (17.7 per game). During his 10-year tenure in Philadelphia, the Eagles earned seven playoff berths, five trips to the NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl appearance (following the 2004 season).

As the Eagles defensive chief, Johnson's defense has produced 26 Pro Bowl selections: Brian Dawkins (7), Troy Vincent (5), Jeremiah Trotter (4), Hugh Douglas (3), Lito Sheppard (2), Asante Samuel (1), Trent Cole (1), Michael Lewis (1), Corey Simon (1), and Bobby Taylor (1).

Four of his defensive assistants have gone on to successful careers with other NFL franchises: Steve Spagnuolo (head coach of the St. Louis Rams), John Harbaugh (head coach of the Baltimore Ravens), Ron Rivera (defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers) and Leslie Frazier (defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings).

Prior to his tenure in Philadelphia, Johnson served as the linebackers coach with Seattle in 1998. That year, Johnson helped the Seahawks register 10 touchdowns on defense, including eight interceptions returned for scores, 2nd most in NFL history. He arrived in Seattle after a four-year stint in Indianapolis, the last two as defensive coordinator. While with the Colts, Johnson helped them secure a berth in the AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh in 1995.

Johnson spent eight seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (1986-93). After overseeing the Cards defensive line for four seasons, Johnson excelled as their secondary coach, helping Aeneas Williams become the first rookie cornerback to lead the league in interceptions (6) since 1981.

Johnson began his coaching career as head coach at Missouri Southern (1967-68), before serving four-year tenures at Drake and Indiana. From 1977-83, Johnson served as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Notre Dame, a stint that included a national championship in 1977.

An all-conference quarterback himself at Missouri (where he played in the same backfield with long-time NFL executive Bill Tobin), Johnson went on to spend two seasons with Buffalo as a tight end (1963-64).

A native of Maywood, IL, Johnson (born 5/26/41) earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in physical education from Missouri.

Johnson is survived by his wife, Vicky, two children, Scott and Michelle, and four grandchildren, Katie, Justin, Brandon, and Jax.


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