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Washington Commanders seemingly refute Ben Johnson report, go after Detroit Lions OC’s reputation

Ben Johnson news, Washington Commanders
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was the presumptive favorite to replace Ron Rivera as the Washington Commanders head coach. After backing out of an interview as Commanders’ officials were in-flight to Detroit, things have now gotten ugly between the two sides.

Johnson, age 37, is one of the most coveted coaching candidates in the NFL. In two seasons as the Lions offensive coordinator, he’s helped transform Jared Goff’s career and engineered one of the best offenses in the NFL. Well-regarded around the league and backed by players, he seemed like a natural fit to become the next Commanders head coach in 2024.

Related: Ben Johnson reportedly turned down Washington Commanders for a key reason

Washington is flush with cap space and first-year general manager Adam Peters is one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL. The Commanders offered Johnson the opportunity to coach an offense tih Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson and work with either quarterback Caleb Williams or Drake Maye thanks to the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

However, a day after Detroit was eliminated from the NFC Championship Game Johnson withdrew his name from consideration for the coaching vacancy as Commanders’ officials were in the air to visit him. The decision let to an even longer coaching search, with Washington ultimately settling on Dan Quinn.

In the days since one of the most bizarre sagas in the NFL coaching carousel, both sides have leaked information seemingly meant to hurt the other’s reputation.

What happened between Ben Johnson, Washington Commanders?

NFL: Washington Football Team-Press Conference
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When it was first announced that Ben Johnson rejected the Commanders, ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggested that Johnson’s contract demands spooked some teams and may have played a role in not being fired. However, contrary reporting suggested the Lions’ offensive coordinator simply wanted to stick with Detroit to try and win the Super Bowl next season.

Related: Washington Commanders draft picks 2024

ESPN’s Jenna Laine had information from both sides, with word from around the NFL that Johnson was “turned off” by the Commanders’ ownership group that seemed to be “basketball guys” who were overconfident about their football knowledge.

From the Commanders’ perspective, however, Johnson “didn’t interview well” and proved to not be a good fit for the team. Because of this, they opted to hire Quinn as the new head coach.

As ESPN’s senior writer Jason Reid points out, though, Washington’s implication that Johnson didn’t interview well doesn’t seem as valid considering a contingent of team executives were in-flight to Detroit to convince him to become the head coach.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network told The Rich Eisen Show that Johnson’s decision to reject the Commanders wasn’t financially motivated. One thing is clear, the Commanders didn’t get their first choice at head coach and there are bitter feelings between Johnson and Washington. Considering the reputation of both sides, the Commanders’ organization might be more negatively impacted by the rumors moving forward.

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