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Ben Johnson viewed as frontrunner to land Carolina Panthers head coach job

Ben Johnson

After firing Matt Rhule following Week 5’s loss, the Carolina Panthers got a jump start when it comes to discovering Ben Johnson and other top head coach candidates in 2023. While the Panthers’ upper management lurked in the shadows scouting a long-term replacement, Steve Wilks performed admirably, leading a 6-6 record as he took over on an interim basis.

It’s believed that Wilks has a shot at securing the full-time position as the Panthers officially begin their interview process, but team owner David Tepper could be aiming for a splashy hire instead.

According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is currently in “the lead” for the Panthers’ head coaching vacancy.

It’s a fascinating development this early in the interview process, but Johnson is certainly a worthy candidate.

In his first year as the Lions’ coordinator, Johnson took the offense from the 25th-ranked scoring attack to one that ranked fifth. It was an effort that included Jared Goff having a career revitalization of sorts, with the Lions believing they’ve found their franchise QB.

Related: Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans set to interview ‘hottest candidate’ on head coach market

Full list of candidates linked to Carolina Panthers’ head coaching vacancy

The Panthers have been linked to several coaching candidates thus far. Here is the complete list of coaches they have been associated with already this offseason.

  • Ben Johnson – Detroit Lions offensive coordinator
  • Steve Wilks – Interim Panthers head coach
  • Frank Reich – Former Indianapolis Colts head coach
  • Jim Caldwell – Former Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions head coach
  • Jim Harbaugh – Michigan coach
  • Shane Steichen – Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator
  • Ken Dorsey – Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator
  • Mike Kafka – New York Giants offensive coordinator
  • Jerod Mayo – New England Patriots inside linebackers coach
  • Kellen Moore – Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator
  • DeMeco Ryans – San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator
  • Ejiro Evero – Denver Broncos defensive coordinator
  • Sean Payton – Former New Orleans Saints head coach

Clearly, the Panthers have a wealth of options at their disposal. Sean Payton’s name is interesting, but the Saints did recently grant their NFC South rivals permission to speak with the coach who is still under contract with New Orleans.

Related: NFL coaching candidates: Best head coach, coordinator and GM candidates in 2023