5 dark horse candidates to replace Ben Johnson as Detroit Lions offensive coordinator

  • Ben Johnson looks like a lock to leave for a head coaching job
  • So who are some dark horse candidates to replace him as Detroit Lions offensive coordinator?

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5. Mark Brunell, Lions quarterbacks coach

Brunell is another internal candidate, as his third season as Lions' quarterbacks coach winds down. He has limited coaching experience, with only the last three seasons in Detroit above the high school level. But his experience from a long career as an NFL quarterback informed Campbell's decision to hire him as a quarterbacks coach, and it's safe to say it has worked out well.

For all the credit Johnson (and even Engstrand) get for the success of the Lions' offense the last couple years and the resurgence of quarterback Jared Goff, Brunell's role in rebuilding Goff's confidence should not be ignored.

Let's not forget what Brunell said about Goff back in August of 2021.

"I’ve been impressed with Jared from Day One,” Brunell said. “Let’s start with the person. He’s a hard worker. He has a great attitude. He’s a very good leader. As far as him on the field, you guys have seen it, he can throw that ball. He makes good decisions with it, and he’s really grown into this offense to the point where he’s doing a good job with it.”

“He has a lot of qualities that I saw in Drew Brees,” Brunell said. “Really, the passion for the game, the work ethic, the leadership. There are some similarities there, which is great to see.”

As much as Johnson has clearly forged a strong relationship with Goff, and empowered him, it's safe to assume Brunell has also built a close relationship with Goff too. As much as Goff may be asked for input into who replaces Johnson, Brunell is a strong candidate to get a vote from the Lions' signal caller.

The big question with Brunell would be his play-calling acumen, since he has never done it at the NFL level as a coach. But having the brain of a former long-time starter in the league, and being close to the modern game recently, should make a transition like that easier.