Analyst Questions Lions’ OC Ben Johnson’s Decision to Return to Team

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell yelling during a 2021 game at Ford Field.

The Detroit Lions had one of their biggest moments of the 2023 offseason already when offensive coordinator Ben Johnson revealed that he would be sticking around this season.

Most fans and even some in the media took this as good news for the Lions, but some were quick to point out that it could prove to be bad news for Johnson and his hopes as a future head coach.

NBC Sports NFL analyst Mike Florio was speaking on Pro Football Talk and discussing Johnson’s decision. As he said, there is some significant risk involved in making the move. Florio also wondered if it was possible Johnson wasn’t set to be passed over.

“This could be a factor of, he really didn’t think he was gonna get a job this cycle, right? This is another one of those predictive narratives that people in our business just kind of lazily throw out there. ‘Well, he’s sure to be a hot candidate again next year.’ Are you sure? Byron Leftwich was a hot candidate last year. He ain’t one this year. The world changes quickly in the NFL, every season is different,” Florio said on the show. “When the window is open, you better try to get through it because that window may be slammed shut a year from now, it may be your only chance.”

As Florio said, Johnson’s risk in tapping out now is the fact that he may not be able to get back into the league as hot head coach material quickly, which the case of Byron Leftwich seems to prove. In 2022, Leftwich was a hot candidate from Tampa Bay, but didn’t land a job. Now, his future is in limbo.

“The bottom line is, Ben Johnson’s ship may come in. We’ll find out if and when it does whether he can be a successful head coach. But for now, he’s tapping out. My concern would be, there’s no guarantee you’re gonna be able to tap back in,” Florio said.

In spite of the truth basis to this argument, Johnson looks as if he is set up for success in 2023 and beyond as a coordinator in Detroit. With only one year on the job, it’s possible he wanted more time to hone his skills and prove why he is an elite coach.

If the Lions have another successful season, Johnson could have his pick of the open jobs in the league. Whether that plays out remains to be seen. Florio, though, seems to comprehend the risks of the decision on Johnson’s part more than others.

PFF Analyst ‘Not Sure’ Johnson Made Right Choice

Florio isn’t the only one perhaps questioning Johnson’s decision making in the cycle with regards to his return to Detroit.

Pro Football Focus analyst Sam Monson saw the news that Johnson was returning on Twitter, and immediately provided his take. As he said, while it was Johnson’s decision to make, his stock may not be higher than it is right now as it relates to landing a head coaching job.

“It’s his life, but not sure his stock will ever be higher than it is right now. Lot of evidence for why you strike while the iron is hot,” Monson tweeted.

Johnson had a great 2022 season, and while it’s impossible to say his stock will ever be higher than it is right now, it’s also impossible to say that it won’t be. Nobody can tell the future no matter how hard they try.

Johnson’s Return Still Good News for Lions

In terms of a positive way to start this offseason, there could be nothing better for the Lions than seeing Johnson return to the team, narratives be dammed.

Why? His offense was near the top of the league in 2022, and he has some much-desired continuity to offer to the franchise.

This past season, the Lions finished with a top four total offense, putting up 380 yards per-game. Detroit’s passing offense was ranked eighth overall, putting up 4,281 yards and 29 touchdowns to go with 251.6 yards per-game. Amon-Ra St. Brown was the leader at the spot with six touchdowns and 1,161 yards.

Detroit’s rush offense was 11th, going for 128.2 yards per-game and 2,179 total yards and 23 touchdowns. Jamaal Williams was dominant with 17 touchdowns and 1,066 yards to lead this group in the backfield.

Now that he is coming back, Johnson can continue to oversee the development of Jared Goff, someone that has sung his praises from the start that he has developed a quality relationship with. Johnson can also continue to help Jameson Williams gain his footing in the league.

Given a plethora of weapons, there’s little reason to think Johnson can’t be just as important to the Lions’ hopes in 2023. He might even earn himself a nice promotion along the way in time as well.

That won’t stop some from wondering if Johnson made a giant mistake with his return.

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