Lions OC Ben Johnson is staying, turning down possible chance to be NFL head coach, AP sources say

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson addresses the media at the NFL football team's training facility, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in Allen Park, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

By Associated Press

January 31, 2024

DETROIT—Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has decided to stay with the team and turn down potential opportunities to be an NFL head coach next season, leading the Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks to turn to other candidates.

Two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Johnson informed teams he would not be leaving the Lions. They spoke on condition of anonymity because Johnson’s plans had not been announced.

Johnson was considered one of the front-runners for the Commanders in their widespread coaching search and he also interviewed twice with the Seahawks, most recently in person Monday. He was scheduled to talk to the Commanders on Tuesday.

One of the people familiar with the situation said the Washington brass is still meeting with Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Johnson, 37, and Glenn helped coach Dan Campbell and the Lions win twice in the same playoffs for the first time since winning the NFL title in 1957 and reach the NFC championship game for the second time in team history and first time in 32 years. Their 34-31 loss to San Francisco on Sunday paved the way for teams to hire Johnson or Glenn.

This was Johnson’s second season running Detroit’s offense after serving in various coaching roles the three previous seasons.

Johnson, whom Campbell has called “a rock star,” broke into the NFL with Miami in 2012 after spending three years as an assistant at Boston College. He worked his way up with the Dolphins to receivers coach in 2018 before getting hired by Detroit and playing a major role in Jared Goff’s growth as a QB.

Last year, Johnson interviewed for the Houston Texans vacancy before they hired DeMeco Ryans.

Johnson staying in Detroit means the Commanders are left with a handful of candidates they’ve interviewed: Glenn, Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Houston offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and Baltimore assistants Mike Macdonald and Anthony Weaver. It’s unclear if they’ll pivot to former Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, their own offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy or someone else after missing out on the opportunity to hire Johnson.

Seattle was also interested in Johnson after Pete Carroll was let go following 14 seasons in charge. Johnson had a first interview with Seattle virtually and a follow up in-person interview on Monday after the Lions’ loss in the NFC title game.

Seattle made it clear that Johnson was one of its top candidates when it didn’t move forward on a hire prior to the conference championship games. Quinn seemed a clear front-runner because of his past connections to Seattle.

But the longer the Seahawks went without moving ahead with Quinn, the more it became obvious there were other options being considered, including Macdonald.

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