Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has quickly become a rising star, and just as quickly he has popped up on a list of future NFL head coaches along with some colleagues.
The Detroit Lions coaching staff is filled with former NFL players, and a couple of them (defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley) seem lined up to become a head coach in the fairly near future. But one Lions assistant that’s not a former NFL player is offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, and his profile is growing.
Johnson stepped into a role as passing game coordinator after the Lions bye week last season. He parlayed that work into replacing Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator this offseason. Through three games, albeit with some hiccups in his first games calling plays, the Lions have one of the most productive offenses in the NFL.
It’s too early to anoint Johnson as anything too far beyond his current job, but he’s getting noticed on a wider scale already.
Ben Johnson quickly lands on list of future NFL head coaches, as Lions assistants fill list too
Conor Orr of SI.com has put together a lengthy list of NFL head coaching candidates for 2023. He included Glenn and Staley, however obviously. Johnson made it, as did offensive line coach Hank Fraley.
Orr noted Johnson as a surprise name for the 2023 hiring cycle, while later pointing to the three other Lions assistants.
Ben Johnson, Offensive Coordinator, Lions
Any time you hear the m-word—“McVay,” that is—thrown around in a conversation about coaches, your ears perk up. Johnson, who is not from the McVay coaching tree but is viewed as an up-and-coming young offensive mind, has carved out a niche as a future offensive trendsetter all on his own. The former walk-on QB at North Carolina broke into the NFL back in 2012 with the Dolphins and has helped the Lions transform into the second-highest-scoring offense in the NFL through three weeks. If there is a surprise name in this cycle, it will be Johnson’s.
Aaron Glenn, Defensive Coordinator, Lions
If (or perhaps when) the Lions turn this thing around, everyone will want a piece of Dan Campbell’s staff. Glenn is a former NFL star defensive back who is widely respected throughout the league. Detroit’s attacking mentality is popular with players and Glenn would have no problem recruiting in his next locale. He is relentless on the practice field in a way that can naturally foster the competitiveness that teams often struggle to grow organically.
Duce Staley, Assistant Head Coach, Lions
Staley, a nine-year NFL running back, spent a large portion of his career coaching and playing under the Andy Reid tree in Philadelphia. Now the assistant head coach of the Lions, Staley has interviewed for head coaching jobs each of the last two seasons.
Hank Fraley, Offensive Line Coach, Lions
Fraley is manning one of the most potentially talented position groups in the NFL. So far, with the Lions third in the NFL in EPA on rush plays and Jared Goff being one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL (4 sacks—for perspective, Carson Wentz and Joe Burrow have already been sacked 15 times apiece), Fraley could be another offensive line coach we talk about transcending the pipeline.
Dan Campbell leaned toward hiring former NFL players, such as he is, to his coaching staff. He also appears to be quietly building a pipeline of future head coaches. Defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant is another promising Lions’ assistant who is seen as a young rising star by some, even if he didn’t quite make Orr’s list here.