Lions’ Ben Johnson, Aidan Hutchinson finish as runners-up for NFL awards

Detroit News

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson both finished as runner-ups for year-end awards, announced the “NFL Honors” Thursday evening.

Johnson finished behind former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans for Assistant Coach of the Year. He received 35 of 50 first-place votes after leading the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL last season. The 49ers allowed just 16.3 points per game, overcoming the loss of the team’s top two quarterbacks to finish the year on a 10-game winning streak before losing the NFC Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Johnson, who took 11 of the remaining 15 first-place votes, orchestrated Detroit’s offensive turnaround in his first year as coordinator. A year after averaging 19.1 points, the Lions scored 26.6 last season.

Both Ryans and Johnson were candidates for multiple head coaching vacancies, with Ryans accepting the top job with the Houston Texans, where he played the first seven seasons of his 11-year career after being drafted by the franchise in 2006.

Johnson, who interviewed with three teams, withdrew his name from consideration to return to Detroit before those franchises made a decision

As for Hutchinson, he lost the Defensive Rookie of the Year award to Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner, who ran away with the balloting, securing 46 first-place votes.

The No. 4 pick in the draft, Gardner led the NFL with 20 pass breakups and allowed just 33 catches the 73 times he was targeted in coverage, earning first-team All-Pro honors. The last rookie cornerback to be named a first-team All-Pro was Ronnie Lott, in 1981.

Gardner, a Detroit native, who played for Martin Luther King Jr. High School, shouted out his hometown during his acceptance speech at the award show.

“I want to thank all my coaches, from little league to Detroit King High School to Cincinnati, everywhere” Gardner said. “Last but not least, I’ve gotta thank Detroit, the East side of Detroit, man. Seven mile, it was hard growing up. It really was. The neighborhood I stayed in, a lot of violence going on, but that was just the adversity that it took for me to get here, so I appreciate it.”

Hutchinson, who the Lions snagged two picks earlier, had a stellar debut season, recording 9.5 sacks and three interceptions. He grabbed three first-place votes with Seattle cornerback Tariq Woolen getting the remaining one.

Other award winners on the night included Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes as MVP, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson as Offensive Player of the Year, 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa as Defensive Player of the Years and the Giants’ Brian Daboll as Coach of the Year.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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