Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is among the hottest names of this year’s NFL head coach hiring cycle. At least, he was.
In what has to be considered surprising news, reports on Tuesday indicate that Johnson has told interested teams that he’s remaining with the Lions for another team.
Johnson, 36, had already interviewed with the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers about their vacancies. In fact, he was seen as the frontrunner to replace Matt Rhule in Carolina. That’s now not going to be in the cards.
For the Panthers, this must be seen as bad news. Carolina spoke with Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh earlier in January. But it was just announced that he’s returning to the Wolverines.
Sean Payton has also been on the Panthers’ radar. In fact, they received permission from the New Orleans Saints to speak with him. However, it seems as if there are more logical landing spots for Payton in that of the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. Perhaps, Carolina now turns its attention to retaining interim head coach Steve Wilks on a full-time basis.
Ben Johnson as an up-and-coming head coach candidate
It stands to reason that Ben Johnson just didn’t view these opportunities in the best of lights. Rather, he opted to return to Detroit after leading its offense to success in 2022.
In his first season as the Lions’ offensive coordinator, Johnson oversaw a unit that ranked fifth in the NFL in scoring at 26.6 points per game. It also finished fourth in total offense.
More than anything, Johnson’s impact on Jared Goff’s breakout season can’t go unnoticed. The former No. 1 pick morphed from stopgap starter to franchise quarterback in his first season working under Johnson.
- Jared Goff stats (2022): 65% completion, 4,438 yards, 29 TD, 7 INT, 99.3 QB rating
A product of North Carolina, Johnson started his Lions coaching career as a quality control coach in 2019. He coached tight ends the next two seasons before taking over as offensive coordinator and play-caller.
Prior to that, Johnson spent seven seasons working as an assistant with the Miami Dolphins. His time overlapped Lions head coach Dan Campbell’s tenure as an assistant in South Beach.