HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans interviewed Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson on Thursday, making him the first announced candidate for their head coaching vacancy.
Texans general manager Nick Caserio is searching for his third coach in as many years.
Lovie Smith was 3-13-1 in one season and was fired on Monday, a year after Houston fired David Culley following one season and a 4-13 record.
The Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts are also interested in interviewing the 36-year-old Johnson about potentially leading their teams.
Coming off his first full season as an NFL offensive coordinator and fourth year with the Lions, Johnson has drawn interest for the innovative schemes and unique plays he designed to help them finish 9-8 after a 1-6 start.
“The best thing about him is his communication and the way he listens, and the way he takes our input and is constantly communicating and keeping us all in the same page,” Detroit quarterback Jared Goff said last month. “That’s the best thing about most coaches I’ve been around that are any good.
“He does a great job leading and putting guys in the right spot.”
Johnson made the most of his opportunity during the 2021 season when he was Detroit’s tight ends coach and became the team’s passing game coordinator after coach Dan Campbell took over play-calling roles from then-offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
The Lions closed that season relatively well and Johnson was credited with helping Goff improve his play during his first season with the team.
That led to Campbell firing Lynn a year ago and later hiring Johnson as his offensive coordinator.
Ben Johnson helped Detroit’s offense rank fifth in the NFL during the 2022 season while striking a balance with the sixth-ranked passing game and the 11th-ranked running game.
Former Lions coach Matt Patricia hired him as an offensive quality control coach in 2019 and promoted him to tight ends coach, a job he retained when Campbell was hired.
Johnson previously coached wide receivers and tight ends for the Miami Dolphins as part of their staff from 2012 to 2018. He started his coaching career in 2009 as a graduate assistant at Boston College and was part of the Eagles’ staff for three seasons.
Johnson, born in Charleston, South Carolina, and raised in Fairview, North Carolina, was a walk-on quarterback for the Tar Heels and earned degrees in mathematics and computer science.
Texans owner Cal McNair said he plans on taking a more “active role” in hiring the sixth coach since the franchise’s first season in 2002.
The team has faced criticism since Smith’s firing for not giving their past two coaches a chance to succeed. Culley and Smith are both Black, and many former coaches and players have broadly criticized NFL teams for not giving Black coaches adequate resources and for giving up on them more quickly than their white counterparts.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Photo: © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK