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Lions’ Ben Johnson details decision to pass on head coaching opportunities: ‘I love where I’m at’

Ben Johnson was one of the most sought-after candidates this past coaching cycle.

Johnson had at least one interview with the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders, the NFL Network reported in January. But he withdrew his name from consideration to remain in Detroit.

Johnson spent the past two seasons as the Lions’ offensive coordinator. The 38-year-old assistant coach was the architect of one of the best offenses in the NFL in 2023. 

In January, Lions star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said Johnson’s choice to stay put centered on “unfinished business.”

“I’m like, ‘So what’s up with you, you did an interview. Like, are you leaving?'” St. Brown said on his “St. Brown Brothers” podcast about a text message exchange with Johnson. “He’s like, ‘You know what, I’m on my way to the facility right now.’ He said he couldn’t sleep last night. He was thinking about it, and he said, ‘There’s unfinished business.’ He wants to stay.”


This week, Johnson shed some more light on his surprising decision to stay put, saying he was happy with his situation with the Lions.

“When it boils down to it, I wanted the sunshine a bit longer,” Johnson told reporters at Lions practice.

“That’s really what it comes down to for me. I like the sunshine. I like what we’ve built here, starting with ownership, the head coach, the GM on down. We have a great group of guys in the locker room, and I want to reap the rewards with them a little bit longer.” 

Ben Johnson and Jared Goff talk on the sideline

Johnson added that any future head coaching opportunity would have to be a good fit for him to consider leaving the Lions.

“When I look at it from that perspective, if I get the opportunity to go down that road, it’s about how do I get to that second contract. How do I set myself up? The stars need to align. I’m not going to do it just to do it. I love what I’m doing right now. Love it. I love where I’m at. My family loves where we’re at. Love the people that we’re doing it with. So, I’m not willing to go down the other path yet unless I feel really good about how it’s going to unfold.”

Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson talks with Dan Campbell

Johnson acknowledged he would likely have to work through an “adjustment period” if he took a head coaching job, but he also made it clear he would not want to forfeit play-calling duties.

“It’s ownership, it’s staff, it’s my vision of how I can make it work with how I know I am,” Johnson said. “Part of me, I love play-calling. If I took a head coaching job, I would want to be a play-calling head coach. Well, there’s a limit to how much time there is during a week. So, what’s it going to look like Monday through Sunday in that regard? Just want to make sure everything’s nailed down. Listen, there’s an adjustment period for every person that takes that job.”

The Lions have averaged the fourth most points per game since Johnson was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2022. He served as the team’s pass game coordinator in 2021. Detroit’s 387.4 yards per game was the best in the NFL.

Rookies Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta thrived in their first season in Johnson’s offense. Both players received Rookie of the Year consideration. Johnson successfully deployed creative plays throughout the season, and four Lions players finished the year with 500 or more yards from scrimmage.

Johnson will likely be a highly sought-after head coaching candidate in the 2025 cycle. But his decision to remain in Detroit allowed the Lions to focus on other offseason priorities instead of worrying about filling a huge hole in the coaching staff.

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