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Lions mailbag: Is Ben Johnson’s return to Detroit a surprise?

Jeremy and Erik answer your Lions questions, including how Ben Johnson’s return impacts the 2023 season, and our reactions to drafting Anthony Richardson.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Detroit Lions Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday night, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson let teams who were searching for another head coach know that he was pulling his name from consideration to return to Detroit this season. It was a massive win for the Lions, seeing as Johnson was the engineer to one of the most potent and creative offenses in the NFL this season.

But where did this decision suddenly come from? Johnson was largely considered the favorite for the Carolina Panthers job, so why—on the eve of his scheduled in-person interview with the Panthers—did Johnson have a change of heart?

Per Tom Pelissero’s report, Johnson “feels Detroit is building something special and wants to see it through.” But if that’s true, why schedule the interview in the first place? Is that the truth or a PR message for the media? Did the Lions sweeten the pot in the 11th hour to make sure they didn’t lose him?

While it’s certainly not rare for a coach to pass on interviews and return to their original team, this one did feel sudden. So what happened and are we surprised?

We discuss that and a whole lot more on this week’s midweek mailbag with myself and Erik Schlitt. That discussion leads off our episode at the 2:30 mark.

Here are other topics we discuss in this week’s episode:

  • 9:25 — Does Ben Johnson’s return change the Lions’ offseason strategy? Is there a “Ben Johnson” window they need to compete in?
  • 13:55 — When will Duce Staley start getting interviews? Why hasn’t it happened yet?
  • 21:20 — Reacting to Dane Brugler’s mock draft: Why draft Anthony Richardson? Is quarterback even on the table for the Lions in the first round?
  • 32:30 — Any strategic difference in drafting Richardson vs. drafting Jameson Williams last year?
  • 34:30 — What should the Lions do at right guard? Release Halapoulivaati Vaitai? Re-sign Evan Brown? Draft a player?
  • 40:15 — What positions do the Lions value the most? Least?

Check out the entire episode below:

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