Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has been one of the most coveted NFL coaching candidates in the league for the last two years. Even after turning down teams for a second time in the hiring cycle, Detroit knows it will likely have to prepare for a future without Johnson.
Well-regarded as one of the best offensive minds and play-callers in the NFL, Johnson is committed to Detroit for another season. While the primary reason he’s staying is to try and bring a championship to Detroit, he also has a strong loyalty to the Lions coaching staff.
However, Detroit recognizes there will likely come a year when the head-coaching job Johnson has been waiting for becomes available. Whether it’s the Kansas City Chiefs after coach Andy Reid retires or potentially the Dallas Cowboys, the expectation is he’ll become an NFL head coach. When that day comes, there will be a lot of focus on who becomes the next Lions offensive coordinator.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated wrote that Johnson’s return to Detroit increases the likelihood that pass-game coordinator Tanner Engstrand leaves the Lions’ organization for a better opportunity with another NFL team. Engstrand has long been viewed as the presumed successor to Johnson, but the potential of him leaving the team means there’s a new assistant coach to monitor.
While there will be opportunities for the current Lions coaching staff to replace Johnson by as early as 2025, Breer mentions another assistant coach who could take over. The NFL insider believes head coach Dan Campbell could eventually pursue Pete Carmichael Jr. as a long-term heir to Johnson.
Carmichael Jr. was just fired by the New Orleans Saints this offseason after serving as the team’s offensive coordinator since 2009. He’s spent the majority of his NFL coaching career in New Orleans, joining the franchise in 2006 as quarterbacks coach and working his way up the ladder.
Related: Detroit Lions draft picks 2024
When Campbell became the Lions head coach, he pulled several Saints’ assistants with him including making Aaron Glenn his defensive coordinator. Campbell spent four seasons in New Orleans (2016-20) as tight ends coach and assistant head coach, so he does have a strong relationship with Carmichael Jr.
The Lions will try and keep Engstrand on their coaching staff in 2024, but the Seattle Seahawks have expressed interest in him as an offensive coordinator and Los Angeles Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh has expressed interest in reuniting with his former assistant.