clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The spin on Detroit Lions OC Ben Johnson has gotten out of control

It’s become pretty clear that both the Washington Commanders and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson are beefing through the media.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Earlier this week, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson pulled himself from consideration for the Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks job, and clearly, that has upset some people based on the media spin that has occurred in the days since.

It all started with the manner in which Johnson removed himself from the candidate pool. The Commanders were reportedly mid-flight on the way to Detroit to interview both Johnson and Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. This is similar to what Johnson did in 2023, turning down all offers a day before he was supposed to interview with the Carolina Panthers.

This has caused some in the media to suggest that Johnson did Washington dirty. While this is undoubtedly inconvenient for the Commanders, it’s not exactly all that uncommon or even rude. Consider that Kliff Kingsbury just pulled out of the Raiders’ offensive coordinator job after he was “expected” to be hired just days earlier. There was no such expectation with Johnson, and the Commanders would have made the trip anyway for Glenn.

Yet, despite the minor inconvenience, both Johnson and the Commanders appear to be working the media to spin their own narratives of what happened. First, the issue of money came up again. As Josina Anderson reported during the season, Johnson was reportedly asking for an uncharacteristically high amount of money to leave Detroit, upwards of $15 million/year. Johnson’s agent immediately refuted said report, but when Johnson turned down jobs again this cycle, Adam Schefter essentially parroted Anderson’s report:

Two hours later, Schefter said Johnson’s contract in Detroit wasn’t adjusted, “proving that money is not Johnson’s biggest motivation.” While Schefter’s two seemingly conflicting reports aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, he does seem to be oddly playing both sides here.

Things only got more sloppy from there. As is common when a strong candidate turns down a job, reports then immediately come out that he was never that strong of a candidate, or the dreaded “he didn’t interview well” leaks. And right on cue, via Albert Breer (my emphasis added):

Washington really liked Johnson. But this was no fait accompli. In fact, as I’d heard it, the Commanders were hitting a soft reset in their process this week, looking to go with in-person interviews, and open-minded to wherever those talks would take them. The Seahawks, who are getting to meet with Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald for the first time, are taking the same approach, too. And for all of his strengths, Johnson didn’t knock his first interview with Washington out of the park.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said the same thing on Seattle radio this week:

Garafolo even went as far as to attack Johnson’s character:

“I’ve even heard that his personality is—you know, he’s very smart, very bright, great play-caller, but I’ve heard that his personality is kind of... not the most gregarious guy. Not a Mike Macdonald type (of) guy or even a Dan Quinn type (of) guy.”

In Garofolo’s mind, Johnson wasn’t as much turning down these opportunities as he was announcing his return having realized he wasn’t getting hired by the Commanders or Seahawks.

There may be a kernel of truth to some of this stuff, but this also reeks of the Commanders trying to push a public narrative to save face. How does Johnson go from the top candidate in a coaching cycle that every media member gushes about, to this unfriendly, poor-interviewing candidate the minute he decides to return? During that time, there were no suggestions that Johnson interviewed poorly or had a bad attitude.

And if the Commanders were so turned off by Johnson’s interview, why were they bothering to meet with him again? Their interest in Glenn never seemed that high, so certainly they weren’t flying their top brass to Detroit just for due diligence.

All of this is brilliantly explained and broken down by ESPN senior writer Jason Reid in the Twitter thread below. Here are a few of those good tweets (click through for the entire thread):

As for Johnson’s side of the story, we’ve heard through Amon-Ra St. Brown that Johnson felt he had “unfinished business” in Detroit after the Lions’ collapse in the NFC Championship Game. That said, there’s some spin happening on his side, too.

Ooof, that’s a low blow.

It’s hard to know if there’s any truth to all of this, but it’s clear both sides are not exactly happy with how things have unfolded over the past week. Hopefully, in time, the Commanders can just be happy with their hiring of Dan Quinn.

Subscribe to PODD

After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.