Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Little Bit More About Sean McDermott

By now, I assume you all know of the news that Jim Johnson has decided to take an indefinite leave of absence. And you may have heard somewhere that some schmuck named Sean McDermott is taking his place. And while all of the attention has been on Johnson and the hoping that he will be all right and able to come back (and rightfully so), if the horror story were to unfold and Johnson is not able to come back, it is probably rather important to learn a thing or 2 about Jim Johnson's successor. From Ray Didinger in a column in CSN Philly where he discusses how Johnson will be missed on the field.

Sean McDermott, the senior ranking assistant on Johnson’s staff, will take over the defense. He will keep Johnson’s system in place. For now, the coaches will focus on educating the new players. Everyone hopes Johnson can return at some point, if only in a consultant’s role, but at this point, no one knows.

Even if the X’s and O’s remain the same, how do you replace what Johnson brought to the Eagles on a daily basis? It will be a huge blow if he cannot return. That’s not to say McDermott doesn’t know his stuff. All of Johnson’s lieutenants – from Steve Spagnuolo to Leslie Frazier to Ron Rivera – have proven they were well-schooled during their time in Philadelphia. McDermott is the last pup from that original litter, so he knows Johnson’s playbook inside and out.

The question is more about confidence. The players knew Johnson so well and respected him so completely that when he made a call during a game, even if it was a call that went against the book, they believed in it because Johnson called it. When it worked – which it usually did – it was for that reason.

The Eagles made a lot of high-risk, “where-did-that-come-from?” calls work because, under Johnson, they played them so fearlessly. If the same call came in from another coach, the players might break the huddle thinking, “Geez, I don’t know about this,” and the result could be entirely different. In pro football, doubt will defeat you every time.

I do believe McDermott is a smart young guy who’s capable of doing a very good job. But there was something about Johnson, the craggy-faced old soldier with the gravelly voice, that made the players believe on game day. They always felt that no matter what the situation may be, the old man had the answer somewhere on his laminated card.

How do you replace that? The Eagles are hoping they don’t have to try.
I too have the utmost faith that McDermott, who was the coach of the secondary under Johnson, knows the system and can execute the same defense that Johnson did. And as the article points out, his other protoges, if you will, have certainly met with success, most notably Steve Spagnuolo. But when push comes to shove, Jim Johnson will certainly be missed just for who he was as a person and what he as a person has brought to the coaching and the players, and not just his defensive scheme, which hopefully can be replicated by McDermott with little hassle.

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