When Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell began assembling his all-star coaching staff, Ben Johnson wasn’t a name people raved about. Partly because he was already in Detroit, and relatively unknown to the masses.
Well, it’s funny how a year can change things, isn’t it?
On Monday night, the NFL Network reported that the Lions promoted Johnson to offensive coordinator. This past season, he started as the Tight Ends coach. However, after a 0-8 start, Campbell stripped then-offensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn of play-calling duties. This paved the way for Johnson. With Campbell assuming those duties, Johnson’s influence was elevated.
In particular, Johnson was heavily involved in the passing game. Lions quarterback Jared Goff spoke on it in his last media session of the season.
“Yeah, Ben really stepped in there about halfway through the year and became, you know, very involved and had a lot of ideas installing things and having his hand on a lot of the stuff the quarterback position was doing, really every position,” said Goff.
Goff isn’t lying here. His impact was almost immediate. His finish under center was proof of it. The Lions were 3-2-1 in his last six starts. Furthermore, his touchdown-to interception ratio was better. It was 11 to two. For how Goff started the season, that’s impressive.
While at the Senior Bowl, Dan Campbell said he’d be interviewing candidates throughout the week. One name that surfaced was Matt Nagy.
Nagy, whom the Chicago Bears recently fired, was a favorite for the open spot. Well, I mean, if you listen to Dave Wannstedt, that is. Despite many rumors, Campbell didn’t divulge any info on who he interviewed. In fact, he tried to be coy. However, he did confirm Johnson’s candidacy.
The Detroit Lions promoting Ben Johnson was a no-brainer.
He’s a sharp, young NFL mind that’s connecting with players. The Lions’ offense has his respect. It appears the rest of the coaching staff does as well. More importantly, he’s a Campbell guy. It’s hard to create a coaching staff with the potential Campbell’s has. And it’s even harder to keep them.
Need proof? Look on the other side of the ball. Aubrey Pleasant could be on his way out if the Vikings offer him their defensive coordinator position. Knowing that great potential in coaching is hard to find, the Lions couldn’t let Johnson walk out the door. Because if they did, they would surely regret it.
In my opinion, hiring another former head coach would’ve been a lazy move. And this isn’t to say Anthony Lynn was a lazy hire. It was a great one at the time. People raved over Lynn’s hiring. Nevertheless, the NFL is changing. Many younger coaches are beginning to have success in this league. Too many times in Detroit, players and coaches have left to succeed elsewhere.
Dan Campbell had to put a stop to that trend. The first way to do that is giving Ben Johnson a shot to sink or swim as the full-time offensive coordinator.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.
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