Ben Johnson has interviewed for Detroit Lions OC job, expects clarity in ‘near future’

Detroit Free Press

MOBILE, Ala. — Dan Campbell has had multiple lengthy conversations with Ben Johnson about the Detroit Lions‘ vacant offensive coordinator job, and Johnson said most of those discussions have revolved around how he can help make Campbell’s vision for the offense come to life.

“It’s really his vision for it and having his back with that vision,” Johnson said Thursday at the Senior Bowl. “And what he wants to see, where he wants it to go. I think it really kind of centers there. This is a head coach-driven team and that’s offense, defense and special teams, and where he wants it to go, we will go, and that of course depends on our personnel and goes out from there.”

Johnson is the favorite to replace Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator, though Campbell said he planned to meet with other candidates this week.

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A Lions assistant since 2019 and the team’s tight ends coach the past two seasons, Johnson served as de facto pass game coordinator over the final nine weeks of the season, after Campbell stripped Lynn of play-calling duties.

With Campbell calling plays and Johnson taking a more hands-on approach, the Lions saw significant improvements on offense. 

They won their only three games of the year after their Week 9 bye, while increasing their scoring by more than four points per game during that span and showing more creativity in the passing game.

Campbell still has not decided if he will call plays next season, but Johnson will get a trial run in that role as one of several Lions staff members with elevated duties at the Senior Bowl this week.

Assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley is serving as head coach for the American team in the game, and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant is working as defensive coordinator.

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“Listen, I mean, it doesn’t matter if you’re a quality control coach or wherever you are on the ladder, you’re getting evaluated every day,” Johnson said. “That’s a coach and a player. So I treat it the same as I’ve always treated every day I go into the office. Eyes are on me, I need to do my job, I owe that to my co-workers, I owe that to the players and you let the chips fall where they may from there. But I haven’t really wavered from that in my career so far and this is just another step in that process.”

A former college quarterback at North Carolina who has never called plays at any level, Johnson said he feels more prepared to be coordinator after the second half of the season, when he spent more time in front of players at meetings and had more say in offensive game plans.

“As far as I know, he’s still deciding whether he’s calling plays or not, he’s still deciding who he’s going to peg as offensive coordinator, and hopefully we’ll have some clarity on the direction of the offense in the near future,” Johnson said.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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