The Detroit Lions are usually thinking of making staff changes the closer the end of a season draws near, but this year, in a surprising turn, they might have a coach in demand.
Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has enjoyed a solid start to his career with the Lions, and as a result, could be positioning himself well to be in the mix for a head coaching job soon, if not as early as 2023.
Speaking in a piece from the Washington Post, NFL insider Jason La Canfora talked about some of the top names set to be in demand for needy teams, and Johnson was a big highlight of his piece. As he said, Johnson’s rise to fame has been a result of word of mouth given what the Lions have done this year.
“The Johnson buzz has spread through NFL circles by word of mouth, not via a massive PR push and decidedly without the kind of hype that tends to coalesce around prominent members of coaching staffs from playoff regulars. Lions Coach Dan Campbell, in his second year, didn’t win his first road game until this month, and if anything the Detroit coaches have battled for their reputations after the staff came under fire last season,” La Canfora wrote.
Within the piece, La Canfora presents some quotes from executives and others that are glowing about Johnson. Perhaps the best was from a personnel executive, who proclaimed Johnson to be “special” given what he has done with the Lions this year.
“He’s special,” said another longtime personnel executive, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “What he’s had to overcome with injuries and from a personnel standpoint, the way they run the football, what he’s done for Goff: Not many coordinators are doing what he’s doing. You look at the film and the way his players respond to him. That’s how you evaluate a coach. That’s coaching,” the piece said.
Johnson as a top candidate would be interesting, but the Lions would probably want to see him stick around a bit longer before leaving. Regardless, he will clearly be a name to watch in the weeks ahead.
Lions Offense a Credit to Johnson
This season, the Detroit offense has been able to keep the team in games if not win plenty of them on its own. That’s a major credit to Johnson, who is calling the shots for the team for the first time.
Through Week 12, the Detroit offense is rated eighth in the NFL. They’ve put up a total of 3,992 yards and are averaging a 362.9 yards per-game so far this season, which is a very big total for a team that scuffled much of the 2021 season.
In terms of the pass, Johnson has Detroit 12th overall in the league, putting up 233.5 passing yards a game. They have 17 touchdowns through the air this season, and 2,568 yards to their credit through the air.
On the ground, the Lions have been even better. Detroit has the 10th overall rushing attack and 1,424 yards to go with 16 touchdowns. Better than that, Detroit is rushing for 129.5 yards per-game just a few years removed from struggling to have a 100 yard rusher in a game.
All of these facts point to what Johnson has done and how he has been able to help the Detroit offense grow in a short amount of time.
Johnson’s Coaching Biography
If Johnson wasn’t a name that is well-known for Lions 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. Four times this season the Lions have eclipsed 30 points in a game, and the offense has hardly been the reason for the team’s struggles, even as Detroit was shut out by New England.
All of this could culminate in a big promotion for Johnson when all is said and done, which could be coming sooner rather than later if the insiders and others are to be believed.