Remembering Jim Johnson, 1941-2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- With word of Jim Johnson's passing, the respects and rememberances of the former Eagles defensive coordinator poured in from around the NFL. A sampling:
Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie: "For ten years, Jim Johnson was an exceptional coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, but more importantly, he was an outstanding human being. As an integral part of the Eagles family, 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. Our hearts go out to his wife, Vicky and his wonderful family. We will miss him greatly."
Eagles president Joe Banner: "This is a sad day for the entire Philadelphia Eagles family. Jim Johnson was first and foremost a friend and our hearts are with his family at this difficult time. Jim was an exceptional coach who had an incredible passion for his work. He had a knack for developing young players into mature, focused and responsible men. Jim was a strong, wise man; absolutely dedicated to his family and friends. While his presence will be missed, his legacy of excellence will be felt for years to come."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: "Jim Johnson was a beloved coach who spent 22 years in the NFL as one of the best defensive coaches in league history. 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. On behalf of the NFL family, we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Vicky and his children and grandchildren."
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh: "I loved Jim Johnson. This is a sad day for so many people who were touched by this great man. Ingrid and I, the Harbaugh family, and the Ravens have Jim's wife, Vicky, and the Johnson family in our thoughts and prayers. Jim was a tremendous teacher of football and life. 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."
N.Y. Jets head coach Rex Reed: "He's one of the best who ever coached. I can't tell you how much I appreciated him as a coach. There are a few coaches that I really respect -- he certainly is one of them, the way he mixes up with his schemes and brings pressures. He did a lot of my dad's [former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan] stuff and mixed it up. We're doing things now, overload pressures, that kind of thing, that he did. Any time you do something well, people are going to try to copy it. But the original guy, the innovator, is always the best. The imitator is never as good."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin: "It is a sad, very sad, day. I talked recently to (Eagles video director) Mike Dougherty and asked him to let Jim know that I was thinking about him, and I had dropped Jim a note to let him know as well. Forget about what kind of coach he was…he was an excellent, excellent defensive coach, and he trained others to be the same. We know what Steve Spagnuolo meant to us. We had great respect for Jim, and he had great respect for us. I didn't know Jim personally, but we would always talk to each other, mostly about the NFC East and what a great, competitive division it is. It was a respectful critique about what great players, coaches and organizations there are within the division. In talking with people who worked with Jim, you sense what a class act Jim was. 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. He coached right up to the very end."
Broncos safety Brian Dawkins: "This is a sad, sad day for myself and my Philadelphia family. 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. He was an absolute blessing to me with the way he used me on the football field and allowed me to show my God-given ability. His confidence in me meant so much—he looked to create new defenses each week to utilize my talents. I have been praying for him every day, and those prayers won't stop now. I'll be praying for his family and their comfort during this difficult time."
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo: "My wife Maria and I are deeply saddened to hear of Jim's passing. He was a dear friend and a special person. Our prayers and thoughts go out to his wife Vicki and their family. 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."
Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera: "Jim was most certainly a very good man; a very decent man. He was definitely a mentor, not just for me but for several guys in the league right now that are coordinators and head coaches. He was just a real caring person. He gave me my start and my opportunity. He took the time to teach me. I'm extremely grateful for everything he did for me."
49ers head coach Mike Singletary: "I would like to express, from the 49ers organization, my condolences to the Johnson family and the Eagles family, from the 49ers family. Everything that I know about Coach Johnson, is he is from the old school. He had a way of doing things and some of the people, players, coaches that know of him, speak very highly of him."