Last season, when the Detroit Lions offense was stuck in neutral, coach Dan Campbell decided to shake things up and turned to then tight ends coach Ben Johnson for assistance. Johnson thrived and the Lions’ offense surged down the stretch and it led to him being named the Lions' next offensive coordinator—reported on Monday and officially announced on Wednesday.
Last week, Johnson took over offensive coordinator duties for the Lions coached American team, as part of an extended interview process, and when he spoke to the media, he mentioned the plethora of intelligent offensive minds he has learned from over the years.
“Just over the course of my career, I’ve been around a number of coordinators,” Johnson said in Mobile, Alabama. “Mike Sherman, Bill Lazor, Zac Taylor, Adam Gase, Anthony Lynn — and I’ve learned a ton from each and every one of them. I’ve taken things from every one of those guys, and so I feel like it has helped prepare me for this moment.”
Taylor, head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, is currently preparing for this weekend’s Super Bowl. And on Wednesday, during his virtual press conference, Taylor was asked about Johnson and their time coaching together.
“I’ve tried to hire Ben (Johnson) many, many, many times and he always just gets promoted where I can’t get him,” Taylor said with a smile. “Dan (Campbell) knows that.”
The trio all coached together from 2012 to 2015 when they were with the Miami Dolphins, Campbell as their tight ends coach, Taylor the quarterbacks coach, and Johnson the assistant quarterbacks coach. And in 2015, when Campbell became the Dolphins interim head coach, it was Taylor who was his offensive coordinator and Johnson who took over Campbell’s job coaching the tight ends. There’s a foundation of trust there that goes back a decade.
“I always tried to find a place for (Johnson) on our staff, whether it’s offense, defense, special (teams)–doesn’t matter,” Taylor continued. “Just, he’s one of those guys you want on your staff, because he’s a brilliant—I can’t even say young anymore, he’s not that young anymore. But back when we were working together, we were both pretty young. He’s outstanding. He’s just really sharp. He’s got a mathematics background. He’s much smarter than I was in school. He sees things differently. He does a great job with the analytics side of things as well. He’s just one of the really, truthfully one of the sharpest football coaches in this league, and he’s only going to continue to learn from his experiences.”
It’s still unclear if Campbell or Johnson will call plays in 2022, and the last time the media spoke with the Lions’ coach he said he needed more time before making a decision. It’s possible the Lions will try and keep things as they were last season, with Campbell calling plays and Johnson scheming up some brilliant plays as part of the game plan. But Johnson has also proven he deserves a shot to prove he is capable of calling a game. Regardless of how they decide to split responsibilities, the pairing of minds is drawing lots of praise around the NFL.
“That’s probably why (Campbell) promoted (Johnson) because he knows he’s got one of the best young coaches in the league right there on his staff,” Taylor concluded. “Why not promote him and help him call this offense? So, really happy for Ben. I think that’s a great move by Dan. He’s going to do outstanding things in this league. He’s going to continue to grow with this experience as it comes along, like we all have. But, again, I can’t say enough positive things about Ben Johnson and the role he’s going to have there in Detroit.”