5 candidates to replace Ben Johnson as Lions offensive coordinator if he leaves for a head coaching job

If (and it is a huge 'if') Ben Johnson takes a head coaching job after this season, who could replace him as the Lions offensive coordinator?
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK
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5. Kellen Moore

Current Job: Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator

Stick with me on this one.

Moore is in his first season as Chargers' offensive coordinator, after four years in the same post with the Dallas Cowboys. The Chargers are 4-5 heading into Week 11, clinging to playoff contention as head coach Brandon Staley sits on the hot seat. If Staley is gone, there's a chance his replacement would want Moore to stay. But let's assume he'll pursue other opportunities and a fresh start (again).

The Chargers have a top-10 scoring and passing offense this year, and if they finish that way it'll be the fourth time in five seasons as an offensive coordinator that Moore has had a top-10 offense in at least one those categories (both three times, if it holds this year). Twice during his tenure in Dallas, the Cowboys had the No. 1 offense in the league by total yardage.

Moore may like to throw the ball a little more (a lot more?) than Dan Campbell would like, if the reason Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy seemed to cite for letting him leave is to be believed. But any search to replace Johnson in Detroit, if it happens, has to include Moore if he's available. He is an easy candidate right now for the head coaching opening at his alma mater, Boise State.

4. Tanner Engstrand

Current Job: Detroit Lions Passing Game Coordinator

Engstrand is somewhat on the same track as Johnson, working as the Lions' tight ends coach, then tight end coach and passing game coordinator when Johnson became offensive coordinator. This year, Engstrand's lone title is passing game coordinator. Like Johnson, Engstrand is a former college quarterback.

At 41 years old, Engstrand has a wide swath of coaching experience going back to his start as a grad assistant at the University of San Diego in 2005. He went from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at San Diego, adding assistant head coach to his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach title from 2013-2017. He spent one year as an offensive analyst at Michigan (2018), before being offensive coordinator/running backs coach for the DC Defenders in the XFL in 2020. He landed with the Lions later that year.

The Lions may very well prioritize familiarity and continuity if they have to replace Johnson after the season. Engstrand is a strong internal candidate, and a sneaky rising star.