Ben Johnson is a 36-year-old budding star in the coaching ranks. In his first offensive coordinator gig, Johnson elevated the Lions unit to the top 10 of nearly every offensive category. Teams around the NFL took note.
Armed with a juiced-up offensive line and weapons that would make any play caller jealous, Johnson flexed his creativity. The first-year OC revitalized Jared Goff and turned Amon-Ra St. Brown into one of the best wide receivers in the league.
Detroit went 9-8, winning five of its final six games, including a thrilling victory vs. Green Bay in Week 18 to keep the division rival from making the postseason. After a successful inaugural stint, Johnson began hearing his name as a potential head coaching candidate this offseason.
Johnson interviewed with the Colts and Texans virtually and was supposed to head to Carolina this afternoon for an in-person meeting with his hometown franchise. Instead, Johnson canceled the interview, thanked the Panthers for the opportunity, and pulled his name from any head coaching search.
Johnson’s reason for this decision is two-fold. First, Johnson believes “something special” is happening in Motor City. He helped get the ball rolling in 2022 and wants to see what 2023 brings. Additionally, Johnson is fiercely loyal to Dan Campbell. Rather than bolting, he stuck with his mentor instead.
The Lions own the No. 6, No. 18, No. 49, and No. 53 picks in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. On top of that, Detroit should have anywhere from $20-30 million at its disposal in free agency. For a nine-win team, there is a clear path to adding another two to three wins to the column.
I admire the loyalty to both Dan Campbell and the Lions franchise. There is still plenty of time for Johnson to lead a franchise, so waiting for the perfect opportunity should be his thought process. Rather than rushing into a job after only one year of coordinator experience, Johnson returns to his comfort zone in Detroit to continue building on the foundation he laid in 2022.
Expect to see Ben Johnson as a candidate for any head coach openings going forward. It will continue until the day he finally leaves the Lions. There will be no shortage of teams knocking at his door if he can boost the offensive unit even more than he did last season. It would be silly to bet against such a brilliant offensive mind.