Indianapolis — Ahead of Super Bowl LVI in 2022, Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor raved about former colleague, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who had been officially promoted to that position just two days earlier.
“He’s just really sharp,” Taylor said last January. “He’s got a mathematics background. He’s much smarter than I was in school. He sees things differently. He does a great job with the analytics side of things, as well. He’s just one of the really, truthfully one of the sharpest football coaches in this league, and he’s only going to continue to learn from his experiences.
“I think Dan (Campbell) knows that, and that’s probably why he promoted him, because he knows he’s got one of the best young coaches in the league right there on his staff. Why not promote him and help him call this offense?”
A year later, after Johnson steered a turnaround that saw the Lions finish with a top-five scoring offense, even Taylor acknowledged he didn’t expect things to go so well, so quickly for Johnson.
“Yeah, he was perfect,” Taylor said at the scouting combine on Tuesday. “I probably expected more of a learning curve for a first-time coordinator and Ben really aced all those tests. Credit to him, Dan and (quarterback) Jared (Goff) and that whole staff. It was fun watching them. That is a team I watched because I know a lot of the guys on that staff. And Jared, obviously, I’m a big fan of him, and Josh Reynolds and all these other guys that we coached.”
Taylor last worked with Johnson in 2015, when the two served as assistants under interim coach Dan Campbell in Miami. It was there that Taylor got his first crack at coordinating an offense, leading a unit that finished in the middle of the pack.
From there, Taylor spent one year coaching at the University of Cincinnati, before landing with the Rams, where he served as Goff’s quarterbacks coach in 2018 before the Bengals hired him for their head-coaching vacancy in 2019. After struggling his first two seasons there, winning a combined six games, Taylor took the Bengals to the Super Bowl his third year and had them back in the AFC Championship this past season.
So, from one coach who led an impressive turnaround to another, Taylor can’t help but appreciate what his former colleagues are doing in Detroit.
“Yeah, I thought the job that whole staff did was incredibly impressive,” Taylor said. “I shouldn’t say I’m surprised. I know Ben, I know what he’s about, I know the intangibles he brings to the table and the work ethic. He holds himself to such a high standard and I just thought he did an outstanding job.”