Brian Dawkins highlighted a very dominant Philadelphia Eagles defense in the early 200s, which was led by the late, great Jim Johnson. That defense was the backbone of an Eagles team that made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons from 2000 to 2004, winning four NFC East titles, making four consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances, and reaching Super Bowl XXXIX.
Of course Dawkins was the heart and soul of that defense. Dawkins made the pro Bowl seven times under Johnson, including the 2001, 2002 and 2004 seasons during the Eagles heyday, earning First Team All-Pro honors all three seasons.
Here were the Eagles defensive rankings under Johnson during that five-year stretch, one which the team went 60-22.
2000: Points (4th), Yards (10th)
2001: Points (2nd), Yards (7th)
2002: Points (2nd), Yards (4th)
2003: Points (7th), Yards (20th)
2004: Points (2nd), Yards (10th)
Dawkins doesn't make the Hall of Fame if it wasn't for Johnson, who he gives a lot of credit for allowing him to revolutionize the game at safety.
"Without him using me the way he used me, I think I still would have had a good career," Dawkins said at a conference call Tuesday. "But if you look at my ability to affect the game in pretty much every statistical category, that had a lot to do with Jim running the defense kind of through me a lot of times. And that’s unheard of for a defensive coordinator to run a defense through a safety.
"His willingness to go away from traditional thinking, he allowed me and my gifts and opened the floodgates. That relationship developed over the years."
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For all the success Dawkins and the Eagles defense had under Johnson, they were unable to capture that coveted Super Bowl championship. The Eagles fell in the NFC Championship Game three times and in the Super Bowl once, which doesn't take away the legacy of what Johnson and Dawkins accomplished together.
"I think it boils down because we didn't win a Super Bowl. For all the success that we had, we weren't able to be that king of the mountain," Dawkins said. "In a lot of those seasons, we were right along with some of the better defenses that were ever assembled in the National Football League. Again, when it boils down to it, I think a lot of people look past us because we weren't the last team standing.That hurts the legacy a bit...in their eyes, not in mine."
Dawkins finished with 14 interceptions, 10 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and 334 tackles during that five-year stretch from 2000 to 2004, the highlight years of his Hall of Fame career. While the Super Bowl may elude Dawkins, Johnson had the credentials to hoist that Vince Lombardi Trophy with the Eagles legend by his side.
If it wasn't for Johnson, Dawkins doesn't get that gold jacket. Their relationship is special, as Johnson will surely be looking down on Dawkins when he makes his Hall of Fame speech on August 4.