On Tuesday, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson informed the two teams who still had head coaching vacancies that he was staying in Detroit. His return to the Lions became more and more possible as the Lions' playoff run went on and jobs were filled, but it was still a pretty shocking decision.
The news of Johnson's return broke, via NFL Network's Tom Pelissero first, at 12:50 p.m. ET.
Johnson presumably made some calls to people in the Lions' organization before the news broke, to head coach Dan Campbell, maybe owner Sheila Ford Hamp, etc. then down to players.
On this week's episode of the St. Brown Brothers podcast (from The 33rd Team), fully released on Wednesday, Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said his phone buzzed with a call from Johnson at about 9:30 a.m. ET Tuesday morning.
After a bit of small talk....St. Brown got into what Johnson told him.
Amon-Ra St. Brown reveals Ben Johnson's reason for staying in Detroit
"He said he couldn’t sleep last night. He was thinking about it, and he said there’s unfinished business,” St. Brown said. “He wants to stay. He said the guys on the team, shoot. He said me, Jared (Goff), Frank (Ragnow), Penei (Sewell), (Taylor) Decker. All the guys. He said his heart is in Detroit, he wants to stay.”
"On his way to the facility he said he was gonna call and tell Dan (Campbell) and everyone, said he was going to talk to his agent, talk to Jared, talk to everyone."
After the NFC Championship Game loss to the 49ers, "unfinished business" and "Super Bowl or bust" have been popular catch-phrases from Lions' players. Still, St. Brown said he wasn't sure Johnson's decision was final, since he had an interview scheduled with the Commanders on Tuesday with no indication it had been cancelled. The Commanders were also coming to Detroit to interview defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
"I was like 90 percent, you never know what happens," St. Brown said. "I wasn’t 100 percent sure. I texted Jared and was like, 'Ben just called me and said he’s staying.' And once it broke on Twitter and everyone was texting me, I was like, 'I already knew, I already knew. Unfinished business.'"
Ultimately, Johnson chose a third year as the Lions' offensive coordinator guiding what should remain one of the best offenses in the NFL over the relative uncertainty of a head coaching job. Loyalty to Campbell and the culture in Detroit certainly played big roles in his decision to stick around (at least) one more year.