For the second straight season, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was one of the more intriguing candidates on the coaching carousel. For the second straight season, he decided to take himself out of the running. Johnson has informed both the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders that he will be returning to Detroit to serve as the Lions offensive coordinator in 2024, as confirmed by CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones.
Johnson told both teams he wants another shot at winning a Super Bowl with the Lions, per the Washington Post.
Johnson’s asking price, according to ESPN, scared off some teams that were searching for a new head coach. Previously, CBS Sports HQ senior NFL insider Josina Anderson reported that some NFL owners were told Johnson’s asking price was at least or around $15 million a year — which would have automatically made him one of the highest-paid head coaches in the NFL. Johnson’s agent disputed this report.
Johnson, 37, just wrapped up his second season as the offensive coordinator of the Lions. Detroit’s offensive attack finished top five in both points per game and yards per game in each of the last two seasons. In 2023, the Lions tied a franchise record with 12 wins and won the NFC North for the very first time. Detroit won two playoff games before their NFC Championship loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Lions had won just one playoff game in the previous 65 seasons combined.
Johnson has been with the Lions since 2019, working as an offensive quality control coach, tight ends coach and passing game coordinator before taking over as offensive coordinator in 2022. The North Carolina grad was a walk-on quarterback with the Tar Heels, and began his coaching career with Boston College as a grad assistant. Johnson also served as an offensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins for seven seasons before his jump to Detroit.
With this huge development, let’s take a look at some winners and losers as Johnson remains in Detroit.
Let’s start with the obvious. The Lions are huge winners with Johnson remaining as offensive coordinator — just as they were huge winners last year when Johnson decided to return. The Lions improved from 9-8 to 12-5 and won two playoff games this season. What will happen this time around?
Johnson would have been the youngest head coach in the NFL if he decided to accept a job with the Seahawks or Commanders. Next offseason, he figures to be just as hot of a candidate — if not hotter. Lions general manager Brad Holmes has provided Johnson with all the pieces necessary for an explosive offensive attack, and he’s taken advantage of them. This is huge for Dan Campbell and Jared Goff as well. Remember, most people thought Goff would get a year or two in Detroit after the Matthew Stafford trade, but under the guidance of Johnson, he’s made the case for being the Lions’ franchise quarterback. Let’s run it back.
Loser: NFC North
The Lions were the preseason favorites to win the NFC North entering 2023, but there were bettors who were intrigued with other options such as the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings. Ultimately, the Lions not only lived up to the hype, but surpassed it as well with their first-ever NFC North title. Now that Detroit is running it back with its highly effective offensive coordinator, it’s not good for the rest of the division.
Winner: Vrabel, Belichick, other HC candidates
Here we were creatingfor Mike Vrabel and Bill Belichick as jobs began to fill up, but now, the Commanders could be changing course. Johnson appeared to be the favorite to land in Washington, so the door is still open for anyone and everyone. It’s worth mentioning that Vrabel and Belichick have reportedly not interviewed for this job. It’s unclear if Johnson’s decision affects them, but it does affect Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn among others.
Loser: Commanders and Seahawks
As we mentioned, most people were already penciling in Johnson to Washington. And if for whatever reason he didn’t land with Josh Harris and Adam Peters, that would open the door for the Seahawks. Ultimately, neither get Johnson. Grabbing an offensive mind who could have had a Sean McVay-like impact on a franchise was an attractive possibility, but now, both teams have to cross Johnson off their lists.
Maybe we can’t definitively call Washington and Seattle losers. We don’t know what Johnson was asking for in his first head-coaching contract. Either way, Washington’s brass was informed mid-flight to Detroit that Johnson was pulling his name out of the running, according to Jones. The Commanders are still headed to Michigan to speak with Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.