Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has quickly seen his name rise among the up-and-coming coaches who may be considered for a head coaching job in the near future. The 36-year-old coordinator made Tom Pelissero’s “young NFL coaches to watch” list in November. And in the past couple weeks, his name has popped up again. First, the Washington Post posted an anonymous quote from a personnel executive who called him “special.” Then this week Broncos reporter Benjamin Allbright curiously retweeted an October tweet of his own that said, “Lions OC Ben Johnson getting a lot of love in league circles this AM.” The Broncos, of course, are in the midst of an offensive disaster.
Anyway, on Thursday, Johnson was asked about his thoughts on potentially becoming a head coach in this league, but he was quick to cut off the reporter.
“It’s not (on my mind),” Johnson said “It’s not. I don’t even want to talk about it.”
Johnson’s meteoric rise has mostly come in the past year. Though he’s been in the NFL coaching circles since he started as an offensive assistant for the Dolphins back in 2012, his big break came in the middle of last year when Lions coach Dan Campbell made him the de facto passing game coordinator after the team had demoted offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Almost immediately, the Lions offense improved, and months later Campbell gave Johnson the full promotion to offensive coordinator.
“I think Ben’s a rock star, man,” Campbell said back in July. “He’s a young guy, but he’s kind of gone a little longer, harder road to get to where he’s at. He’s been around some really good coaches.”
Since then, the Lions offense has been red-hot in 2022. They started the year leading the league in points scored in September, and while that has subsequently dropped to eighth—arguably due to a variety of injuries—Detroit still has scored at least 24 points in eight of their 11 games and currently rank 12th in offensive DVOA.
The Bills have been passed up by the Eagles in terms of consistency at earning new 1st downs— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 29, 2022
The Lions/Browns being this high is pretty impressive
The Lions' offense being light years ahead of the Rams is pretty interesting pic.twitter.com/2y7yPXML7s
“I haven’t had time to reflect, but it’s certainly been a whirlwind in some different roles,” Johnson said. “As I’ve always done, it’s trying to do the best job of whatever I’m asked to do. But, yeah, the future will take care of itself. I can’t worry about that right now. I’m more worried about us as an offense continuing to get better.”
Life can be tough for a hot commodity like Johnson. If he does indeed land any head coaching interviews this offseason, they will come quick. It’s a race to fill coaching vacancies in this league so that they are able to fill out an entire coaching staff before other teams do. So when the Lions season ends in January (or later), Johnson will have to be ready. But he insisted on Thursday that his focus right now is all on the here and now.
“100 percent of my focus is on my current job, point blank,” Johnson said. “All I care about is beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.”