Lions Assistant Coach Proclaimed the Early Leader for NFC Job: Report

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell on the field for the Lions during the 2022 season.

Detroit Lions fans have been holding their breath to see what happens with their coaching staff in recent days, and the name they will be watching closest is Ben Johnson.

Johnson presided over an offense which was ranked in the top-three of the NFL this season, and as a result, he’s become a popular candidate for open jobs in league circles.

With the process coming into focus a bit, where does Johnson stand? According to CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones by way of Dov Kleiman, he could be a presumed leader for the head job with the Carolina Panthers.

As Kleiman tweeted on Sunday, January 15, an early update from Jones has Johnson as a leader in the Panthers’ search.

“Coaching Updates: Lions OC Ben Johnson “has the lead” on the Panthers head coaching job. Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon is the frontrunner for the Texans job. Colts might stick with Jeff Saturday as the permanent head coach, via Jonathan Jones,” Kleiman tweeted.

Carolina would represent a homecoming for Johnson given he grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and attended high school in Asheville, North Carolina. He also attended the University of North Carolina for college.

Whether this report proves to be true or not will be seen soon, but for now, Lions fans may have to watch the Panthers closest to see if Johnson comes back.

Johnson a ‘Hot Candidate’ During Cycle

To hear Johnson is potentially a leader for a team in their search isn’t exactly a surprise, especially given the amount of love he has managed around the cycle.

Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported that the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans as well as the Carolina Panthers all had scheduled interviews with Johnson in the coming days and weeks.

“The Panthers requested an interview with Lions OC Ben Johnson for their head coaching job, per source. The Texans and Colts put in requests for Johnson, too. A hot candidate,” Pelissero tweeted.

As of now, no other jobs have come open, and the Denver and Arizona searches have not included Johnson. There’s time for all of that to change, of course, so fans will simply have to stay tuned.

Johnson’s Coaching Biography

If Johnson wasn’t a name that is well-known for NFL fans prior to this season, that is hardly a surprise. He had flown under the radar before leading Detroit to a top 10 offensive ranking most of the 2022 season.

The tight ends coach has been in the background for a while now while putting together his career, but looking beyond that, nobody can deny the experience he has piled up thus far whatsoever. Johnson got his start in the league in 2012 with Miami as a offensive assistant after playing quarterback in college for North Carolina.

During 2013-15 Johnson was Miami’s assistant quarterback coach. When 2015 came, he was promoted to tight ends coach during the season. From 2016-2017, Johnson was an assistant wideout coach where he helped Jarvis Landry become an elite wideout given 22 total scores in his career there. In 2018 before he departed, Albert Wilson was mentored for success as well with four touchdowns, which remains his career high.

Johnson joined the Lions in 2020 under Matt Patricia and immediately helped T.J. Hockenson with his development. During the 2021 season, he was given more influence over the team’s offense and helped Campbell with game planning and schematics. That allowed him the chance to call more plays on the field and take the reigns.

Now that Johnson is an offensive coordinator, he’s showing his stuff. Seven times this season the Lions eclipsed 30 points in a game, and the offense has hardly been the reason for the team’s struggles, even in some of their closer games or blowout losses.

All of this could figure to help Johnson get a big promotion, and it’s possible that the Panthers already have him the highest on the list.

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