Harbaugh, Coughlin pay tribute to Johnson

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The loss of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson earlier this afternoon has saddened folks across the league. Johnson was admired by many coaches -- especially those on the defensive side of the ball. He served as a mentor for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who just released this statement:

"I loved Jim Johnson," said Harbaugh. "This is a sad day for so many people who were touched by this great man. Ingrid and I, the Harbaugh family, and the Ravens have Jim's wife, Vicky, and the Johnson family in our thoughts and prayers. Jim was a tremendous teacher of football and life. He had a special ability to bring out the best in people while getting you to see the best in yourself. He saw potential and developed it. He made me believe I could coach at this level. In football, he was a pioneering and brilliant strategist, changing the way defense is played in the NFL. For me, he was a father-type mentor, and above all, a cherished friend. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. I will miss him so much."

That is one of the coolest things that I have always heard about Johnson. He never felt threatened by up-and-coming assistants. In fact, he went out of his way to impart wisdom so that they could advance in the profession. Johnson is a huge reason why Harbaugh and Steve Spagnuolo are head coaches in this league. He was a confident guy who never let ambition get in the way of creating valuable relationships.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin also released a statement about Johnson's passing:

"It is a sad, very sad, day," said Coughlin. "I talked recently to (Eagles video director) Mike Dougherty and asked him to let Jim know that I was thinking about him, and I had dropped Jim a note to let him know as well. Forget about what kind of coach he was…he was an excellent, excellent defensive coach, and he trained others to be the same. We know what Steve Spagnuolo meant to us. We had great respect for Jim, and he had great respect for us. I didn't know Jim personally, but we would always talk to each other, mostly about the NFC East and what a great, competitive division it is. It was a respectful critique about what great players, coaches and organizations there are within the division. In talking with people who worked with Jim, you sense what a class act Jim was. He was great to work with and for, and he had his priorities in order. His players loved to play for him and his coaches loved to coach with him. It is a sad day for the National Football League to lose somebody the quality of Jim Johnson. It is a sad note on which to start the season. He coached right up to the very end.”