Lions OC Ben Johnson opens up about shocking career move

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For a second straight offseason, Ben Johnson exited the coaching carousel to keep his offensive coordinator post in Detroit. After being viewed as the leader for the Panthers’ HC job in 2023, Johnson had been in position as the front-runner to replace Ron Rivera with the Commanders.

Shortly after the NFC Championship Game, Commanders brass received word — while en route to Detroit to interview Johnson and Lions DC Aaron Glenn — the two-year Detroit play-caller was once again bowing out of a coaching pursuit. Johnson is not believed to have received a raise this time around; his Lions deal still runs through 2025. But the selective candidate will undoubtedly gauge the HC openings come 2025.

“I’m not gonna do it just to do it,” Johnson said of taking a coaching job, via ESPN.com’s Eric Woodyard. “I love what I’m doing right now. Love it. I love where I’m at. My family loves where we’re at. Love the people that we’re doing it with, so I’m not willing to go down the other path yet, unless I feel really good about how it’s gonna unfold.”

Via The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy, Johnson said he is eyeing a job that will allow for success en route to a second contract. Some candidates do not have the luxury of being as selective as Johnson has been, but the Matt Patricia Lions hire has been trending upward — just as the Lions have — in recent years.

As the Lions have climbed into a Super Bowl-contending position, moving closer to the NFL’s biggest stage than they had at any point in franchise history, Johnson has represented a central reason for the team’s ascent. Detroit’s offense has ranked in the top five in points and yardage in each of Johnson’s first two seasons at the controls, and Jared Goff‘s career has turned around to the point he is again back near the top of the QB salary hierarchy.

The Goff-Johnson partnership led to the Lions quarterback signing a four-year, $212M extension. For at least one more season, Goff will work alongside the coveted assistant. Johnson, 38, will have a chance to impress once again. The young coordinator stepping off the route toward Washington surprised many, and the Commanders — who ended up submitting an offer to Mike Macdonald, ahead of his signing a six-year Seahawks contract — eventually hired Dan Quinn as a second-chance candidate.

It took Josh McDaniels a bit of time to re-emerge as an attractive HC candidate after he backed out of a Colts agreement. Johnson did not go that far down the road with the Commanders and Panthers, but his selective path could conceivably turn teams off. Although, another strong season from the Detroit offense will probably put the next batch of HC-needy teams in pursuit. Offensive play-callers remain the most popular hires in this NFL period.

“The longer you’re in the coordinator chair, it does nothing but help you and prepare you more for the next step if it ever comes down the pipe,” Johnson said. “Personally, I don’t feel like I’m hurting my opportunities or my abilities to be a head coach in the future, and I love what I’m doing right now.”

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