The Sean McDermott File

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Just how long Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator extraordinaire Jim Johnson remains out of action as he takes on his greatest battle, cancer, remains uncertain. Until Johnson feels up to making his return to coaching the reins of the defense have been placed in the grips of Sean McDermott, the Eagles' secondary coach.

Already receiving the solid show of support from the rest of the coaching staff and the players, McDermott has assured all that nothing will change drastically from the expected defensive schematics.

While McDermott will be carrying out the orders that would generally be expected from Johnson, it should be without question that if Johnson's leave of absence extends further into the season then McDermott will have the ability to tweak the defense slightly to his liking.

Will that hurt or help the defense of the usually stingy Eagles? Only time will tell, but what can you expect out of McDermott?

Focused largely on the secondary the defense figures to excel against the pass. Having Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown as the top corner backs on the squad surely helps, but many fans are most concerned with the safety position.

After losing Brian Dawkins to free agency concerns grew fast about the abilities of players like Quintin Mikell and Quintin Demps. These players made some progress last year but images of Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald dancing his way to touchdowns still leave a sting in the battered and bruised memory banks of Eagles fans.

Clearly McDermott has a lot on his plate whether Johnson returns to the sideline, or coaches box, or not. McDermott has worked his way to this chance to showcase his abilities, although this is not he would have liked to receive the opportunity.

A former safety at William & Mary McDermott is always thinking about the pass defense. After graduating from William & Mary McDermott stuck around and served as a graduate assistant with his alma mater in 1998.

Reid welcomed McDermott to the coaching staff in the 2000 season, after McDermott had spent two seasons as a scouting coordinator. After one year as an assistant to Reid McDermott was given more specific responsibilities as a defensive assistant.

In 2002 McDermott was promoted to assistant defensive backs coach where he would help players like Brown and Lito Sheppard to develop in to Pro Bowl caliber players. His success was rewarded with a promotion to Secondary/Safeties coach in 2004.

During that Super Bowl season McDermott's top two projects, Dawkins and Michael Lewis, both earned starting spots on the NFC Pro Bowl team. This was the first time this happened in franchise history.

In 2007, McDermott moved to coaching the linebackers, and last year was given control of coaching the secondary once again under Johnson. Which brings us to the upcoming 2009 season.

Obviously Eagles fans everywhere, as well as the team, hope for a speedy return from Johnson. Until that time comes though all eyes will be on McDermott. There are reasons to be optimistic.

Reid has a history of grooming successful coaches under his watch. Take for example Steve Spagnuolo, currently the coach of the St. Louis Rams. Spagnuolo started his NFL coaching career with the Eagles as a linebackers coach.

From there he ascended up the ranks, serving the New York Giants as a defensive coordinator and now the head coach in St. Louis.

Making a successful head coaching debut last season was Baltimore Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh also grew from under Reid, making his own path to a head coaching job after focusing on special teams and defensive backs while in Philadelphia.

Johnson has been inserted into head coaching discussions in the past, although never as a front runner, so it should be no surprise that McDermott can prosper form this unique situation.

With a successful campaign in 2009, should he serve as acting defensive coordinator for the entire or majority of the season, McDermott could very well be finding himself in the hot list of young up and coming coaches.

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