Commanders ‘Definitely Looking at Other People,’ Amid Ben Johnson Rumors

Jared Goff and Ben Johnson

Getty The Washington Commanders are "definitely looking at other people," despite Detroit Lions' OC Ben Johnson being the favorite to be named head coach.

Ben Johnson has already been anointed by many as the next head coach of the Washington Commanders. It’s just a matter of when. Yet, not everybody is convinced the Detroit Lions’ offensive coordinator will get the job, including ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who revealed “it’s not a slam dunk at all right now, and they are definitely looking at other people as well.”

Schefter made the claim during an appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show” on Monday, January 29. He pointed out the Commanders are “pretty impressed with Mike Macdonald and Aaron Glenn and Anthony Weaver as well. And I think those guys are going to have a legitimate chance to get that job.”

The presence of the Seattle Seahawks complicates matters for the Commanders and Johnson. Schefter noted how “Ben Johnson’s in play in Seattle,” while also casting doubt on the idea the Seahawks will hire Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

Schefter’s report flies in the face of accepted opinion among many around the league Johnson to Washington is a certainty. Even his ESPN colleague Jeff Darlington called it a “foregone conclusion” during an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter (h/t Marlowe Alter of the Detroit Free Press).

Schefter namedropping Mike Macdonald is also significant. He’s first on deck for what should be the final round of interviews before the Commanders settle on a replacement for Ron Rivera.

Mike Macdonald Has First Chance to Make Final Impression on Commanders

The Commanders obviously aren’t in the mood to wait on Macdonald. Schefter reported the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator “is scheduled to meet Monday night with Commanders’ owner Josh Harris, general manager Adam Peters and other Washington leadership.”

Macdonald’s case is strong after a season calling the stingiest defense in the NFL. The Ravens allowed a league-low 280 points during the regular season and shutout Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of the AFC Championship Game.

Baltimore’s defense performed admirably, even though the Ravens were ultimately beaten 17-10 at M&T Bank Stadium. Yet, not everybody was impressed.

Among the detractors, TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor questioned how the Ravens could allow primary Chiefs’ targets, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Rashee Rice to combine for 19 catches.

That’s a fair question, but Macdonald wasn’t the only highly-touted coordinator to endure a rough outing on Championship Sunday.

Doubts Emerging About Ben Johnson’s Candidacy After Lions Defeat

The Lions losing the NFC Championship Game wasn’t all on Johnson, but the 34-31 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers raised a few doubts about his candidacy. Johnson’s offense was held to only seven second-half points at Levi’s Stadium.

He moved away from Detroit’s signature powerful ground attack. The Lions ran the ball just eight times after halftime, despite amassing 148 yards on the ground during the first two quarters, and playing with a 24-7 lead in the third.

Shunning a team strength when things got close hinted at a certain naivety. Or at least a problem holding his nerve when the stakes were at their highest.

Perhaps those are unfair critiques, since Johnson is still just 37. His star is on the rise, but as ESPN’s John Keim put it, Johnson’s worked with talent in Detroit, but “other aspects matter a ton: leadership, communication, surrounding self with strong staff.”

Johnson has seemed like a lock to learn those things with the Commanders, but Ben Standig of The Athletic thinks it’s “very odd” the Seahawks still want to talk with the so-called favorite.

Interest from Seattle puts the Commanders in a tricky situation regarding Johnson. If owner Josh Harris and general manager Adam Peters do have doubts, they can’t take too long indulging them and risk the Seahawks making their move.

On the other hand, rushing to beat the competition could lead to appointing the wrong man. It may be safer to opt for experience, something Quinn would provide.

He guided the Atlanta Falcons to the 2017 Super Bowl and will meet with the Commanders. This isn’t the first time Quinn’s name has been mentioned as a potential replacement for Rivera, while the Commanders wisely keep their options open.

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