An obvious head coaching opening is now official in Denver, and Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson seems like a legit candidate for the job.
While Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers would not be a lead item on his resume, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is in line for some head coaching interviews in a few weeks.
One is now a practical guarantee.
Basically since Week 1, it has been inevitable that Nathaniel Hackett would be one-and-done as Denver Broncos head coach. At this point he seemed likely to finish the season, then be done. But on Monday, after an embarassing 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Day to drop them to 4-11 on the season, Hackett was fired.
The Broncos’ problems this year haven’t been all Hackett’s fault, as quarterback Russell Wilson is a shell of what he was at his best in Seattle. But the former Packers offensive coordinator never emitted the vibe he was a capable head coach, and new ownership was clearly not going to keep him.
Now the Broncos can get some kind of a head start on their search, with finding a coach who can work better with Wilson a likely priority (Sean Payton?). Along with giving up a bushel of draft picks to get him last offseason, the Broncos gave Wilson a five-year, $242 million contract.
Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson a legit candidate for the Broncos job opening?
On a surface level, Johnson could be seen as Hackett 2.0 in Denver. Hackett had never been a head coach before, but he had been a coordinator in college and the NFL before three years in Green Bay. Johnson is, as we know, in his first season as a coordinator and play caller.
The Broncos may adopt the idea of hiring a head coach who’s the opposite of what they just had, and pivot to a defensive mind. At minimum, a more experienced offensive mind (like Payton, as an example) would seem to be a high priority. Albeit across different lead front office executives, the Broncos have hired a first-time head coach three times in a row (Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Hackett). So candidates with prior head coaching experience might take priority.
Johnson should get an interview request from the Broncos. And he should take the opportunity to present himself to them, like Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn did before Hackett was hired. But it does not mean he’ll be hired, obviously.
It’s easy for Lions fans to be of two minds here–talk themselves into why the Broncos wouldn’t hire Johnson, and also be fearful of losing him to them. It might come down to his desire to coach Wilson, and embrace all Wilson is (a fake leader with a declining skill set, etc.). That is not going to be an appealing idea for some potential candidates.
But Johnson’s interview schedule will probably include more than a (likely) trip to Denver, or a trip by Broncos’ brass to see him. So any fear of losing him to a head coaching job in 2023 won’t go away until the upcoming hiring cycle is over.