Philadelphia Eagles News

Lurie Conf. Call On Jim Johnson

Opening Statement: "Just to start with, there's been no finer coach or man than Jim Johnson. You all know that. We've all worked with him and gotten so close to him over the last ten years. This is truly, for me personally and I know our whole Eagles family and friends of Jim and obviously his family, it doesn't get much sadder. He was just an incredible gem from day one and we had been blessed. The city has been blessed. The Eagles family has been blessed and everyone who's surrounded the football team or surrounded Jim in everything, he conducted himself, we had a true gem here and there aren't a lot of Jim's."

On a memory of Jim that stands out: "There are so many moments in ten years. I think one I will always remember was last January after we had just lost the NFC Championship game. [We were] in the locker room and there were a few moments there I was alone with Jim. He came over closer to me and said, 'Jeff, I am so sorry we didn't deliver this for you.' And I remember thinking to myself 'oh my God, Jim I've got the best defensive coordinator in football for the last ten years and you have nothing to be apologetic about. You give more than any owner could possibly expect,' and I told him that. He knew that.

"It was just one of those rare emotional moments when things were very, very upsetting that we hadn't advanced to the Super Bowl and Jim was so confident that we were going to get the ring. He doesn't think ahead, but I knew what he felt about playing the Steelers. He was just so apologetic. I will always remember that moment."

On the qualities that Johnson possessed that made him so well respected: "There were so many qualities and you really got to see most of them because he was didn't put a shield up in front of himself. He was so genuine, so direct. I felt that players just loved a guy who was that honest. [head coach] Andy [Reid] has those characteristics as well -- so genuine, not putting on airs, not acting like the guru that he was, but much more a person that just wanted to win so bad. [He] treated every player like he was a key ingredient and a key part in that process.

"Andy said at the press conference that he trusted Jim. I think as an owner, I completely trusted Jim. But more importantly, the people who came in contact with him, who worked so directly with him, the players and the other coaches, he was just such a dedicated, genuine human being. That's the way he was in life."

On his first impression of Johnson:"It's funny, he described his philosophy a bit and it was so simple, but complex at the same time. You've seen it over the last ten years. It was, if you can't stop the other quarterback, this is not going to be an easy game to win. It was that simple, but he had to come up with very sophisticated strategies for ever increasingly sophisticated offenses.

"Every time we would have an owners' meeting it was always interesting because we'd always make it easier for the offenses and tougher for the defenses. I would come back after those meetings and Jim would know it and he just sort of said it was more of a puzzle that had to be solved. He took it that way.

"One other thing I can [talk about], I mentioned the owners meetings. [At] the annual meeting you have all the head coaches there and I had never heard such adoration for an assistant coach or a coordinator as [when] other coaches would come up to me, as I've gotten to know so many of them over the years, their respect and absolute admiration for Jim Johnson. I remember Bill Belichick told me, 'You've got the best defensive coordinator in football,' and he was talking to the converted. I've known that, I know it and we've been so lucky to have him."

On the importance of his personality and how his defense resonated with the fans: "You hit on something very important. His was a very aggressive, tough and physical style. That's the way he coached at practice. I don't think it was just because he had that strategy of attacking quarterbacks. He approached every practice, if you're timing was down on your blitz, if you missed by almost a millisecond of your timing, you were responsible for the failure of that play. That's how he took it.

"Whether you were an undrafted free agent or a Pro Bowl defensive player, he coached hard. He coached really hard and with such passion that the players just – I never saw a player kind of look back at him and say, 'Why are you telling me that?' It was always, 'That's right, that timing wasn't perfect. If we're not going to have that kind of timing in the game then we are going to get gashed.' It was always that consistent passion to win that came through with every practice."

On whether he felt Johnson's mentality would mesh with the city of Philadelphia: "Yes, and anyone who has studied Eagles football, this has been a great decade of football with Jim, but you had some other great defensive coordinators as well with Bud Carson and of course Buddy Ryan as head coach. It's a city that really appreciates aggressive defense, not played too conservatively, be physical, and dominate. Allow your offense to win the game by dominating on defense and that was his approach.

"You got it right away, just a hard-knuckled, yet soft person who had that wonderful combination of real strength of teaching and at the same time strength of heart. You can only admire it when you see people like that."

On the game that made Jim Johnson stand out to him, a 37-10 loss to Indianapolis in 1996: "I will always remember that game. It was a night game, prime time, I guess a Sunday night or a Thursday night. The Colts had so many injuries on defense and everybody was saying 'this should be a pretty easy game for our offense.'

"He just completely shackled our team and dominated the game with players that had never even started a game in some cases. It always kind of stuck with you because it was an embarrassment on national television. It was a team that we were clearly, I guess on paper you'd have to say, by far the better team, at least our offense over their defense and we got nowhere. We were lights-out embarrassed."

On the way Johnson paid attention to everyone in the organization, not just those on the football side of things: "Andy epitomizes that and I think his coaching staff has followed his lead. It's been one of the real pluses of the whole culture of the organization. There is no split between the football side and the rest of the organization. Everybody works together.

"Jim was so open, whether it was a marketing executive or an accounting person or an assistant. Whoever it was, he treated them just like he was talking to me or Andy or a great player. [He] was direct, honest and genuine. No matter who it was. That's the nature of our coaches from Andy on down. It's something I will always respect and encourage. I hope I'm never here saying we don't have that because to me you want to maximize your chances to win and you want to have that kind of all-together culture."

On whether he targeted head coach, defensive coordinator and quarterback as keys to stability and success:"Yes, there is no question. One of the appeals of taking the risk, at the time, of hiring Andy, was how he prioritized the selection of the defensive coordinator because he knew, and of course we knew as well, that that was the other leg that had to be fantastic for us to succeed. Andy has been an offensive coach his entire career and it was really felt that to succeed you had to have that franchise quarterback and you had to have that defensive coordinator that was top notch. Without either of the three I don't think we could have accomplished this decade with what's happened."

On his confidence that the team will be able to make the transition: "I've got great faith in [defensive coordinator] Sean McDermott for one thing. I've watched him over many years and he's got the ingredients to be outstanding. The culture is so set. The players, and you know this from being around the team, the kind of guys we have – I hesitate to even name names, but the guys that are just workaholics that are so dedicated. The Quintin Mikells and the Trent Coles and young Stewart Bradley, and the list goes on and on and on, Asante Samuel. You saw it coming last year, it was transferred to a more athletic defense, young, athletic defense last year.

"That should continue and it doesn't mean that it's not going to take great coaching, but I think the ingredients are there for this coaching staff. With the support of everybody in the organization and especially Andy Reid, to accomplish everything that's out there. Sometimes when we are blitzing it's going to be for Jim. There is no doubt about that."

On whether he will be watchful of the effects of this transition on the team from a personal standpoint: "Yes of course. You would anyway. When you own the team or you're so involved in the passionate way that I am, you worry about everything. You worry about a position that might be descending and are we good enough there or a young player, is he ascending quickly enough because we need him to? You're always worried no matter what if you have the love of the game or the love the team. And even last year we had struggles on defense at times. Early in the year we weren't as good as we were at the end of the year.

"One of the things with Jim and with Andy has been - and you've wrote about it and a lot of people have written about it a lot - is, how do you recover from some of the losses or when you're 2-3 or 3-5 or whatever on some of those years? How do you recover and keep the ability to become one of the very best teams by the end of the year?

"You don't see it that often in the NFL and these players and these coaches, and Jim's been a huge part of it, have really been able to do that. And, I really do believe we'll be able to continue and win big."

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