Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was a hot candidate to land a head coaching gig before he pulled his name from consideration to stay on Dan Campbell’s staff.
“It’s really simple for me,” Johnson told the Twentyman in the Huddle podcast for the team’s official website on Wednesday. “It starts with this place and these people. Been here four years now and I believe in (principal owner) Sheila (Hamp) and what she’s doing. (Team president) Rod Wood. Dan (Campbell), Brad (Holmes). It starts at the top and trickles down.
“This is as encouraged [as I’ve been] in my four years with the direction of the Lions and where we’re headed.”
Johnson started his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant in 2012 in Miami, where Campbell was the tight ends coach. Johnson was eventually promoted to TEs coach when Campbell became the interim for the final 12 games of the 2015 season. After three more seasons in South Beach, Johnson eventually landed in Detroit in 2019 under Matt Patricia. Campbell retained Johnson upon taking over in 2021 and promoted him to OC in 2022.
The Lions offense took off under Johnson’s watch, with creative, smart play-calling that took advantage of Detroit’s stellar offensive line and good weapons. His gutsy hook-and-lateral call in the finale against Green Bay was a prime example of an inventive call that worked to perfection. Johnson had several of those throughout the season.
The 36-year-old said a Garth Brooks concert at Ford Field early in his Lions tenure sold him on Detroit being a place he could win.
“I was thinking at the time and soaking in the atmosphere, and it was like, ‘Holy cow, this is what a home playoff game is going to be like, and this is what I want to be a part of,’ ” he said. ” ‘This is what I want to feel. This is what I want to experience.’
“It made me feel some type of way and I kept going back to that as part of the process and you know what, there are so many good things going on here. So many good people, coaches, players, I love the offensive staff and everyone we have on board there. I love the players. I love coming into work every day. Coach Campbell is incredible, and so end of the day talking with my family it just made sense. Don’t ruin a good thing.”
Johnson will stick around for another season. But if his offense doubles down on its production and ingenuity in 2023, he probably won’t be in Detroit through another head coaching cycle.