Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is back with the Lions, and there is a reported reward after the popular candidate for head-coaching openings decided to return to Detroit.
NFL Network reported Thursday that Johnson will be welcomed back with an enhanced contract and a large raise for spurning overtures from other teams.
Johnson had virtual interviews to become head coach with three teams, and was scheduled for a second, in-person interview on Wednesday with the Carolina Panthers.
But Johnson opted to instead return to the Lions in 2023, which will be his second season as OC. The 36-year-old was promoted to the play-calling role after the 2021 season, replacing Anthony Lynn.
Quarterback Jared Goff delivered a stellar season and credited Johnson, but joked he’d stop relaying how good he was in order to keep him around.
“He’s been as instrumental as any coach I’ve ever had,” Goff said. “Our communication is as good as I’ve ever been a part of, and he does a great job with not just me, but everybody. … But if he does end up (leaving for a head-coaching job), I’ll be thrilled for him. He’s a hell of a coach, and that’s why you get in this profession, is to do that.”
The Lions ranked fifth in scoring and fourth in total offense this past season. Detroit had 4,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in the same season for the first time in team history.
The overwhelming momentum from the Lions’ turnaround has influenced players as much as coaches.
General manager Brad Holmes said players with opportunities to exit in free agency have almost universally voiced their preference to stick around, too.
“I don’t ignore the reality of there’s other elements of that business that we’re going to have to deal with, but it was cool to hear because those guys believe in what we’re doing and they believe it’s the right way,” Holmes said. “They like how they’re treated, they can be themselves, and it was just cool to hear that they think that we’re doing it the right way.”
–Field Level Media