The late Jim Johnson is missed in Philadelphia not only for his genius in orchestrating some of the most innovative defensive schemes in recent history, but also for his ability to forge and cultivate relationships with players in order to get the most out of them.
In late July, it will have been five years since Johnson lost his courageous battle with cancer. He was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2011 and his legacy lives on not only in Philadelphia, but throughout the entire league.
On Monday, Peter King revealed in his Monday Morning Quarterback column that Johnson is one of four recipients of the inaugural Paul "Dr. Z." Zimmerman Award, which is a lifetime achievement honor for NFL assistant coaches.
"Johnson was still in full bloom at 68 when cancer of the spine killed him five years ago. He brought pressure with the best defensive coaches in recent history. Over his last nine years as Philadelphia defensive coordinator, his Eagles were second in the league with 390 sacks - yet only two of his pass-rushers (Hugh Douglas and Trent Cole) went to a Pro Bowl," King wrote.
"Said one of his protégés, former Eagles assistant John Harbaugh, when Johnson died: '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.' Johnson figured out ways of disguising pressure and bringing it against different teams with different players—and none of the 11 men on defense was out of the pressure mix. His Eagles once sacked Ben Roethlisberger nine times in a game; his last Eagle defense held the Giants and Vikings to 25 points in eight quarters in two road playoff wins in the 2008 season. He did his best work with the Eagles, but he also coached Arizona, Indianapolis and Seattle in an NFL tenure that dated to 1986."
There are Eagles ties to two of the other award recipients. Former offensive line coach Howard Mudd spent the final two years of his 39-year coaching career with the Eagles, retiring after the 2012 season.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's uncle, the late Fritz Shurmur, was a defensive coordinator for 20 years. In a five-year stint with Green Bay, Shurmur helped the Packers win two NFC titles and a Super Bowl.