Jan 22, 2010, 9:00 AM EDT
The two people who would come to define Philly football over the next decade in the NFL, Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, both debuted with the Eagles in the 1999 season. But a third and arguably almost as influential figure also introduced himself to the City of Brotherly Love that season–57-year-old Jim Johnson, brought in to be the architect of Reid's defense. Johnson would go on to captain the Birds' blitz and pressure-heavy defense for the whole next decade, transforming it into one of the league's more fearsome units.
Johnson had made his bones earlier in the decade as a defensive line coach for the Cardinals and then later the linebackers coach for the Colts and Seahawks. His impressive resume on D made him an ideal choice to be Andy Reid's right hand man, with Reid more focused on the offensive side of the ball. "I've said many times, Jim Johnson is the best in the business at what he does," Reid has said. "His defensive units continue to produce at a very high level as he puts a lot of pressure on opposing offenses." The list of Eagles who broke out under Johnson's guiding hand includes Troy Vincent, Jeremiah Trotter, Lito Sheppard and Trent Cole, and all in all, 26 Pro Bowl nods were racked up by Eagles defenders during his tenure.
That tenure, of course, was tragically cut short in July of last year, when Jim Johnson passed away after a half-year struggle with cancer. Johnson was able to properly hand the defense's reins over to Sean McDermott before his passing, but the team couldn't possibly be quite the same without him. It's a question that I'm sure more than a few of us have pondered: would Jim Johnson have let his unit allow the Cowboys to put points on the board like that these last two weeks?
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