On Tuesday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson had opted to remove his name from current head coaching opportunities and would be returning to Detroit in 2023.
On Wednesday, Jeremy Reisman and I held our weekly live mailbag podcast, and the first several questions we received surrounded Johnson. Were we surprised by Johnson’s return? How important is it for the Lions offense? And why would he make the decision to return?
With regard to the last question, one of my theories was:
“Purely speculation here, I would think the Lions organization probably went, ‘Hey Ben, we’ll give you a raise if you stick around.’”
On Thursday, that speculation was confirmed, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that “sources say he’ll return on an enhanced contract that features a large raise. Johnson was one of the hottest HC candidates and likely would have ended up with a job. Now, back in Detroit, excited for another season.”
While the Lions did not officially come out and announce that Johnson was returning, Senior writer Tim Twentyman penned an article, “Ben Johnson returning as Detroit Lions offensive coordinator”, which is as close to a confirmation as you will get from the organization on a coach returning to his existing role.
“Johnson, who just completed his first season as Detroit’s offensive coordinator, has decided to stay on staff in that role for a second season despite being a top candidate in this year’s head coach hiring cycle,” Twentyman wrote. “Johnson recently interviewed virtually with three teams with reports out of Carolina he was among the favorites to land that job.”
This is a win-win situation, as the Lions keep one of the best offensive minds in his role while they look to take the next step forward in their organizational rebuild. Johnson gets rewarded for returning and has a chance to build his resume for future head coaching jobs.