Eagles' Johnson Dies After Battle With Cancer

"Our coach, mentor and friend"

Just seven months after leading the Eagles defense into the NFC Championship Game, Long-Time Eagles' Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson lost his battle to skin cancer Tuesday afternoon. He was 68.

Johnson was an NFL assistant for 22 years. He spent the last decade with the Eagles until stepping aside recently to battle his disease.

Sean McDermott took over the defense from Johnson just last weekend. McDermott paid Johnson the ultimate compliment in describing the style of defense he wanted the Eagles to play: Johnson's style.

The Eagles posted a tribute to Johnson on their Web site that read "Our coach, mentor and friend."

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie remembered Johnson fondly.

"For ten years, Jim Johnson was an exceptional coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, but more importantly, he was an outstanding human being," said Lurie.

"As an integral part of the Eagles family, Jim epitomized the traits of what a great coach should be -- a teacher, a leader, and a winner. He positively touched the lives of so many people in and out of the Eagles organization. It was easy to feel close to him. Our hearts go out to his wife, Vicky and his wonderful family. We will miss him greatly."

Johnson's death comes in the same year when Philly sports fans lost long-time Phils broadcaster Harry Kalas and long-time sportscaster Gary Papa.

While in Philly, Johnson earned the status of defensive mastermind as his blitz schemes left quarterbacks and entire offenses flat on their backs.

Since joining the Birds in January 1999, Johnson’s defensive units were consistently ranked near the top of NFC. From 2000 to 20008 his units ranked No. 2 in the NFL in sacks (390), third down efficiency (34-percent) and red-zone touchdown percentage (43.9-percent).

As the Eagles defensive chief, Johnson's defense produced an amazing 26 Pro Bowl selections including Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas, Lito Sheppard, Asante Samuel, Trent Cole, Michael Lewis, Corey Simon and Bobby Taylor.

"Jim was taylor-made to coach in Philadelphia," said Dawkins.

He also worked as an assistant coach for the Cardinals (1986-93), Colts (1994-97) and Seahawks (1998).

NBC Philadelphia's Sports Director Vai Sikahema shared his thoughts -- he was with the Cardinals at the same time as Johnson.

Johnson, a native of Maywood, Ill., surprisingly came from an offensive background. He played quarterback at Missouri and went on to spend two years in the AFL as a tight end with the Buffalo Bills.

Johnson is survived by his wife Vicky, two children, Scott and Michelle, and four grandchildren, Katie, Justin, Brandon, and Jax.

Stick with NBC Philadelphia for more information.

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