Philadelphia Eagles News

Joe Banner And Andy Reid On Jim Johnson

Andy Reid opening remarks: "Obviously this is not the way we wanted to get together this evening with the news that we have with the passing of Jim Johnson. (There's) probably not much I can add to the things that you guys have reported. The tributes have been phenomenal, both by you and by the fans and ex-players and present players, and all well due to Jim. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to Vicky and both his son and daughter, grandkids, and so on, all his relatives. The whole Eagle-Andy regime here that's taken place wouldn't have been possible without Jim, and I think we all realize that and I think the players understand that.

"I know (Owner) Jeffrey (Lurie), Joe (Banner), Christina (Lurie), they all understand that. Just the ultimate respect you'll find throughout the league. I've received just a ton of text messages and phone calls, and I'm not sure there is a person that I've met, surely not anybody that has communicated today, that isn't a Jim Johnson fan. He really represented everything this city is all about with his toughness and grit and that's the way he fought this cancer. I thought his doctors did a phenomenal job of trying to stop the evil melanoma that he had. The University of Pennsylvania Hospital, they're top notch. It was a battle they all put a lot of effort into, including Jim, right to the end. At this time, I think it's important that we do think of the good times that Jim brought us, and as we go through the grieving process here, remember all the positives that he brought to the Philadelphia Eagles and to the city of Philadelphia. With that, I'm going to turn it over to Joe."

Joe Banner opening remarks: "I just want to add my own thoughts of tremendous sadness. It's been an amazing run with Jim. He's been a great friend and partner. A tremendous testimony to the life that he led, the outpouring of feelings from people. I think his legacy is the words from the people that knew him the best, his family of the (Rams head coach) Steve Spagnuolos, (Ravens head coach) John Harbaughs and the (Broncos FS) Brian Dawkins' and (former Eagles CB) Troy Vincents, the guys that lived with him every day. They know what a special guy he was and how much he meant to all of us, both professionally and personally. I think Andy said it well; we wouldn't have been able to achieve what we've achieved through this period of time without him, and in every way, not just as a coach, but as a person, as a man, as a leader, as a builder of young people, as a teacher, just really an amazing man.

"His family shared him with us through ups and downs and the emotions that bring us all to work together at the Eagles so close, and we appreciate that of them. We try to share this with them and hopefully take a little burden off their shoulders of the tough times ahead. We'll all have tremendous memories of phenomenal ups and downs and joys, but always the legacy of Jim will be the tremendous feelings of some of the people that knew him best and played for him, and not just in the Eagles era. Like Andy, my phone has been filled since this news of people that coached with him in various places and administrators, and just nothing but the warmest feelings of love and great memories. We'll all just have to cherish that and get through this. I speak also on behalf of Jeff, who I know will be available to you here soon, but is also deeply moved and saddened by the loss of one of the really key great members of this family."

Reid

On whether he and Johnson immediately clicked upon meeting: "It's a funny thing. (Assistant to head coach) Brett Veach was asking me that earlier today. We met at the Pro Bowl, and I had been a fan of his when I was in Green Bay because they completely dismantled us at the Colts. We went in there sky high and I think we were undefeated at the time. We played them a little bit after the halfway point of the season, and I'm not sure they had won a game at that point and they just slam-dangoed us. I said, 'You know what, I want to know that guy right there.' This was before head coaching thoughts or anything. I said, 'I'm going to study this guy.' Then we go to the Pro Bowl a year or so later and he's now on the AFC staff. As you know, we stay at the same hotel and go to the same functions and everything else, so that's where I got to know him. I was lucky enough when I became a head coach that I had that name stuck in the back of my mind, and when Jeffery and Joe asked me who I wanted as my defensive coordinator, he was at the top of the list."

Banner: "There is a flip side to this because all of you have heard of the story when we hired Andy about the book he brought in, and in it he had graded, at every position, the top coordinators. Some of you may have been with us long enough to remember that we had a similar experience. We went into Indianapolis, for I think it was a Thursday night or a Sunday night game, and they have half of their defense out with injuries. We were just going into the game thinking, and we had a respectable team at the time (and thought), 'Wow we are really going to make something happen here,' and Jim's defense came out blitzing us every single play. I think we lost by 30 points. Then, we were interviewing Andy and we were talking about some of the logistics of hiring and hired Andy and he mentioned Jim, and Jeff and I were like, 'Wait, that's the guy that was coaching that game in Indianapolis when they were missing their whole team and they killed us anyway,' so we immediately thought, 'That's a good idea.'"

Reid

On what he learned from Johnson about life: "I think this is a big thing on staffs, and I know as coaches most of us have been on different staffs where there might be a conflict between the offense and defense. There was never that. It was all about winning and that's all he cared about. From the head coach's standpoint, you can't ask for more than that. He didn't come out and want to dominate the practice or want extra defensive periods or that type of thing. He just wants to be on board with the program that you have and then go win the game. I'll always be thankful for him for that."

On what it was about Johnson that made him so respected by his players: "He was sincere. You guys dealt with him and he was no different with me, he was no different with the players. He shot them straight and that's what players want. To survive as long as Jim did in the National Football League at the level he did and to have the respect – listen, I've never heard anyone say a negative thing about him, never -- on other teams, all the way back to college players, one of which worked for NFL Films (former NFL Films executive Bob Smith) forever. There was never a negative word. He spoke of him just like the players did, just like he did with the ultimate respect. And he was so sharp. He was progressive. A lot of defensive coordinators, if they blitz once and you gash them, they stop blitzing. That wasn't Jim. He'd come right back and try it again and it might be the next play. The players, they like that, and they like to be told the truth, and he did both of those."

On why he thinks Johnson turned down opportunities to be a head coach: "I think Jim had seen a lot. He was very observant and had been with other organizations, seen things. I think he knew this was a great situation. Obviously the organization, financially, respected him with the money they paid him. But besides that, he knew that he was a little bit up there in years and he wanted to finish his career in a positive situation, and he did that and he would have continued to do that."

On what it was about Johnson that made him such a good leader: "He was decisive and he was honest and had a plan. Those are important things. You can add the scheme into that, but without the other things to be your foundation that toughness, the honesty, the integrity – you're not going to go far, it doesn't matter what scheme you use."

On whether he had a favorite memory of Johnson: "I've got a bunch of them. I can't name one. I have too many. It would be unfair to name one, but there were some great ones. It amazed me that he had been in this league this long and he was as old as he was and he was as feisty as he was day in and day out. You talk about people losing their stinger. His stinger kept growing bigger and bigger every year. It was amazing."

On whether he had to talk Johnson out of coming back to coach this season, or whether Johnson knew when it would be time to step back: "He knew. He knew. He told me right upfront that, 'If I feel like I can't do it and contribute at the level I think I need to contribute to run the defense, then I'm going to let you know.' And so he did. It was that simple."

On when the last time he talked to Johnson was: "Actually, Joe and I visited him last night. Now, he wasn't in a position where he could talk, but that's the last time we saw him."

On when his last conversation with Johnson was: "It was probably two days before that."

On what the conversation was about: "It was a little bit of football. It was a little bit of treatment that he was going through and how that part was going. He was very concerned about the starting date of training camp. That was in his mind. He had all the dates down and he knew them. Amazing."

On why he thinks Johnson's longest tenure was in Philadelphia: "I think sometimes the stars line up right for coaches, and we're all very fortunate. Jim and I both came into a situation here where we've had great support. It starts at the top and works its way down through Joe and myself and then my coaches. We've been given an opportunity here to win and he cherished that. He had been through some tough seasons. He cherished winning. Then, he loved the city. He just fit in. Man, it was a perfect fit for that guy in Philadelphia."

On how he would describe Johnson's sense of humor: "He kept things in perspective. I know (head athletic trainer) Rick (Burkholder) and I were just talking and one of the stories came up about (Jets CB) Lito (Sheppard). Lito was one of his favorite guys, almost like a son. He was. Lito was a character. So, Jim was always trying to push the right buttons with Lito, and I remember Lito talked to Rick or one of the guys and they said, 'Hey listen, when Jim's on you and he's chewing on you, just thing of the word 'sweet.' Just think of the word 'sweet' and it will just blank out all of those thoughts.' And so somehow Jim got word that Lito was told this word 'sweet,' and so Lito goes out on the field, and he had just had a rough play, and Jim starts screaming at him 'Sweet! Sweet! Lito, Sweet!' And then Lito goes like this (gives a thumbs up). I don't know. I guess that's part of his humor."

On how tough it has been for the organization to deal with this situation: "Well, you've talked to people and it's not an easy thing at all because he's such dynamic personality. He left us this phenomenal legacy here and then he battled right to the end, so all those things have not been easy. It's not easy for this football team. It's not easy for the veteran players that have been around him. The thing with the players that you're dealing with here now, there's only a few of them that have been around Jim, and so most of them don't even know Jim Johnson. That's one of the situations we're in now, that these guys don't quite understand. The ones that have been around him obviously do understand. I think when the rest of the players get in here, and I've had a chance to talk to a lot of them or at least communicate through either text or Rick Burkholder talking to them, we tried to make sure that we called as many guys as we could call there. I think that's when things will settle in there."

On Johnson not getting to win a Super Bowl last season: "We were all pulling for it. I think that by that time we knew obviously, that he had cancer and that when it's in your spine that's not a good thing. When a guy that tough is losing that much weight and is confined to that little three-wheel contraption that he was in, that wasn't a pretty sight. So, I think down deep everybody was pulling for him on that."

On whether Reid felt like he needed to prove himself as a coach to Johnson: "You never felt like you had to do that with him. He wanted to execute your plan. He wanted to go and he wanted to win. I never felt that way. As much respect as I had for him, I never felt that way."

On whether there is any planned tribute to Johnson this season: "It's all fresh right now. But, (Team President) Joe (Banner) and I have talked a little bit here and we're going to put something together."

On whether Reid ever tried to get Johnson to be less honest with the media: "No, not at all. I never felt that. I had the ultimate confidence in the guy. Respect and confidence was a ten. I had complete trust that he was going to do the right thing and say the right things. And that was him. I would never tell somebody to change what they are."

On the similarities and differences between Johnson and former Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur: "They knew each other very well, obviously. Believe it or not, they were very similar personalities. They were both very aggressive. We all know (Former Packers and Eagles DE) Reggie White here; Fritz could say things to Reggie White that nobody could say to Reggie White. That's the way Jim came across to his players."

On how Reid and Johnson's differing personalities affected their relationship: "I never had an argument with Jim. We never had an argument. If I had something that I needed to give for whatever dimension it was, he was, 'let's go and do it,' and move on. We were different personalities, which we all are. But, it worked."

On the rarity of somebody Johnson's age enjoying the idiosyncrasies of a defense as much as he did: "Well it is rare. That's a rare thing. Normally when you get to that age and you have young guys, you just go, 'Eh, forget about it. I'll take care of it. I'm tired of explaining this thing.' But that's not the way he was. He wanted everything detailed out. He was going to explain it to the coaches. He was a little bit like John Wayne and the cowboys. He had those young guys as his assistant coaches and he was so patient with them and meticulous with them, it was awesome. It was a great experience for them and that's why they've all gone on and had success."

On the difficulty of Johnson's absence at training camp: "I tell you where I felt that more was at the Pro Bowl. Having the headset on and not having him growling in the headset. That was the first time that I noticed it. And after that you kind of move on…but I will say the other day it was different. It was different sitting up here introducing (defensive coordinator) Sean (McDermott). I mean, that was a different deal. But, time takes care of all of that. We'll all miss him…somebody who leaves a legacy, that's all part of it. You will miss that part of it. But, he taught Sean well and Sean will move on here."

On Johnson's legacy being "Blitz": "I think it will be. You heard what Sean said, which was a classic line. 'What's the one thing that stands out to you that he taught you?' 'Blitz, blitz, blitz.' And that's how he (Jim) presented it to the players. We are going to come after the quarterback and we are going to seek and destroy. It was about that simple. Now his blitzes weren't quite that simple but that was the mentality."

On addressing the players tomorrow: "The one thing that players have gone through is that they've gone through this period where Jim hasn't been there. Through modern technology we have at least been able to keep in touch with most of the veteran players and give them updates on where Jim's at. It's sudden yes, but it's not as sudden as if the last four months didn't take place. But still, with that it will be tough."

On how Johnson liked to spend his time away from football: "With his family number one. Without a doubt. Grandkids, he had those two twins. He'd bring them out and those kids from the time they were about three could hit 40-foot homeruns. He had them trained. It fun was to watch."

Banner

On whether bringing Johnson into the Eagles organization was one of the best decisions the organization has ever made: "It emanates from the hiring of Andy and the emphasis he had on surrounding himself with the right group of people. I don't think you could look back and say any decision that he made in that area was any better than Jim. And again, he brought more than just the coaching. The mentality and the character and the teaching that we wanted to have be part of the staff, he epitomized it all."

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