June 13, 2024

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 23: Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions speak on the field prior to a game against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on November 23, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

The unexpected standout in the NFL playoffs has been the Detroit Lions, and part of the accolades for their journey to the NFC Championship game next week can be attributed to someone under consideration for the role of Seattle Seahawks head coach.

The Seahawks have reportedly sought an interview with Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson in their ongoing search for Pete Carroll’s successor. On the Friday edition of Wyman and Bob, they spoke with Tim Twentyman, senior writer and insider for the official Lions website, to gain insight into the factors that make Johnson such an intriguing candidate.

1. Johnson, a holdover from the Lions, earned the admiration of coach Dan Campbell.
When a new head coach takes over an NFL team, there is typically minimal continuity from the previous season. However, Ben Johnson was a rare exception during Dan Campbell’s inaugural season with the Lions.

Previously, Johnson served as the offensive quality control coach under Detroit’s former coach Matt Patricia in 2019 and then transitioned to the role of tight ends coach in 2020. When Campbell assumed the head coaching position in 2021, he retained Johnson, initially promoting him to passing game coordinator and subsequently elevating him to offensive coordinator in 2022.

According to Tim Twentyman, a senior writer and insider for the official Lions website, Campbell identified Johnson as an intelligent and upward-trending coach. Despite Johnson’s potential departure for a higher-profile job, people in Detroit seem to understand the situation and view it positively. Twentyman noted that Detroit prefers this scenario over the alternative and highlighted the increased attention Johnson has received in interviews as a testament to the team’s turnaround under his guidance. In the eyes of Detroit, the interviews are a reflection of the team’s success, and both Ben Johnson and Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn have played crucial roles in achieving milestones such as 12 wins, the first division title in over 30 years, and a playoff victory. Twentyman commended them for their deserving recognition in coaching searches.

2. An innovative offensive mind.
The Lions achieved notable success in three key offensive categories – rushing yards, passing yards, and scoring – a factor that has contributed to Johnson emerging as a sought-after candidate in the head coach search.

“Ben possesses a deep understanding of offensive football. Observing him devise a game plan is truly enjoyable,” mentioned Twentyman. “Consider what he has accomplished with the Detroit Lions’ offense – ranking in the top five in both rushing and passing. This is a remarkable feat. Over the last two seasons, they have surpassed 4,000 passing yards and rushed for 2,000 yards, marking the first occurrence of such achievements in franchise history.”

Despite being only 37 years old, Johnson’s impactful work with the Lions over his two seasons as Offensive Coordinator suggests to Twentyman that he is well-prepared for a head coaching role.

“Yes, I believe he’s ready. Beyond the impressive offensive statistics and scoring you mentioned, when you speak to any player on offense, you sense the level of respect they hold for how he has elevated each of them as players. This is precisely what players desire – to enter the league, be coached, and know that there’s someone dedicated to enhancing their football skills,” Twentyman remarked. “When discussing the offensive players, and I believe this sentiment extends across the entire roster if he secures a head coaching position and assumes broader responsibilities, it’s evident how he has positively impacted rookies and seasoned players alike. Take, for instance, Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds, who, despite having experience in the league, has become a key contributor, making significant plays and improving at this stage of his career. This is precisely what players desire. Ben Johnson has demonstrated that he not only identifies talent but also develops it, making individuals better. For a franchise seeking a head coach, the key is finding someone who can not only spot talent but also nurture and enhance it. Ben Johnson embodies these qualities.”

3. Seattle Seahawks could benefit from a coach adept at tailoring an offense to a quarterback.
Despite Geno Smith’s commendable performance as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback over the past two seasons, given his age (33), there remains the possibility that Seattle might seek a younger franchise quarterback in the near future. Whether the Seahawks decide to transition to a younger QB or stick with Smith for an extended period, Johnson’s demonstrated ability to work with Lions QB Jared Goff is a valuable asset.

“One of Ben Johnson’s standout accomplishments as offensive coordinator was when he and Jared Goff collaborated in the offseason to design the offense around Goff and the quarterback position,” explained Twentyman. “They had conversations like, ‘Jared, what are your strengths? What do you dislike? What are your weaknesses? While I have my principles, and there are certain things I want to implement, let’s avoid what you don’t excel at, and let’s truly construct this around your strengths.’ I give him a lot of credit for that.”

Goff, at 29 years old, enjoyed one of his most impressive regular seasons in 2023, ranking second in the NFL with 4,575 passing yards, fourth in touchdown passes with 30, and tenth in completion percentage at 67.3.

Jared Goff would be the first to commend him for what he has achieved and the impressive statistics he has posted,” Twentyman stated. “… It empowered Jared to take charge of the offense and gain a deep understanding of its intricacies. When you hear them discuss offensive football and their perspectives on the game, it’s evident that these two individuals are in sync. Jared Goff would attribute a significant portion of his success over the last two years to Ben Johnson.”

Seattle Seahawks coach candidate Ben Johnson Lions...

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