The NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio currently does not allow coordinators into its doors.
I have a feeling that will change after the passing of Eagles defensive guru Jim Johnson, who passed away today after a long battle with cancer at the age of 68.
Normally top coordinators get head coaching jobs and eventually get their shot at Canton. But Jim Johnson was a different breed. When Andy Reid hired him as Defensive Coordinator in 1999, Johnson relished in that role. He took many of his top and up and coming assistants under his wing and that gave them oppurtunities for coordinator and head coaching positions in the NFL. His coaching tree as a defensive coordinator is as large as any coach's in the NFL today.
John Harbaugh led the Baltimore Ravens to the playoffs last year in his first year as a head coach. Steve Spagnuolo became the DC for the Giants before becoming the head coach of the Rams. San Diego's Ron Rivera and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier are both DC's for their respective teams. If you add current Eagles DC Sean McDermott, who replaced Johnson officially earlier this week, that's five coaches.
I'd like to see how many other coordinators have that kind of resume/coaching tree. Jim Johnson loved to teach and mentor his assistants and so many became successful because of him. But few could ever beat the master at his own game.
But as of right now, this master can not enter the Hall of Fame. Coordinators aren't allowed in, only head coaches. There's an exception for owners/team contributors which would include front office staff, but right now, I don't see a way the Johnson can get into Canton, and that's a real shame. In my opinion, forget the fact that I'm an Eagles fan, no coordinator in the history of the NFL had a bigger impact with a team than in Johnson's ten years with the Eagles. Without Jim Johnson, the Eagles mini-dynasty never happens, because that defense hasn't lost a step in 10 years, no matter who is on the field.
Jim Johnson's gravestone should have something about blitzing on it if the fans had their way. I think his family will forego that idea, but his legacy in Philadelphia will always be centered around his blitz-packages that confounded offenses and coaches for a decade in Philadelphia. Even in the non-playoff years for the Eagles, his defenses were still among the best in the NFL. He was well-liked throughout the NFL and the media alike, and this day will bring sadness to many hearts across the nation, not just in Philly.
So here's to the greatest coordinator in the history of the NFL. Here's to a genius that will still manage to put a weakside linebacker in your backfield, no matter where he is. Here's to a great person who will be missed by family, friends, players and fans alike. Here's to another reason why we should find a cure for cancer. But most importantly of all, here's to Jim Johnson, one of the great icons of Philadelphia football, who legacy and memory will never leave Philadelphia.
RIP Jim Johnson, 1941-2009