The Detroit Lions have been pretty good offensively for much of this season. The third quarter is an ongoing issue though, as offensive coordinator Ben Johnson loses his creativity for some reason and becomes predictable. It couldn't have been worse on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, as the Lions had 61 yards of total offense with two turnovers in the second half.
Run, run, play-action pass to the middle of the field tends to be the play-calling pattern Johnson falls into when the rut comes. He fails to deviate or adjust from a core game plan in a troubling way.
As Johnson is lined up for head coaching interviews again after the season, he will face a big question-as noted by Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire.
Johnson's stock as a head coaching candidate has taken an undeniable hit lately. Time will tell if, or how, that stock recovers over the rest of the season. It's a reach to stay he's distracted by the outside buzz regarding his future, so let's not go there.
But it's also not all Johnson's fault that his head coaching stock has taken the hit it has.
It's not all Ben Johnson's fault that his head coaching stock has taken a hit lately
The NFL head coaching openings after last season were not very appealing, for a number of reasons. But for many, if not all, it was related to a quarterback question. Not ideal for an offensive coordinator making that jump, so Johnson decided to stay in Detroit for at least one more year.
With that said, here's one of the reasons I cited for why Johnson might regret not taking a head coaching job a year ago.
"2. Key Lions players set to regress"
The headliner there was quarterback Jared Goff. With a near-record interception-less streak going at the time, and coming off one of the best years of his career, some level of regression was in order this year.
Through six games this season, that regression did not come. Goff had a 105.1 passer rating with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. And the Lions were 5-1.
In the seven games since then, Goff has an 86.9 passer rating with 10 touchdowns, seven interceptions and five fumbles (three lost). Narrow to the last four, and Goff has a 84.9 passer rating with more turnovers (eight) than touchdown passes. It's true a continually banged up offensive line isn't doing him any favors, and maybe he's secretly injured. But he is not playing well, and it's a big concern for the Lions going forward.
Johnson knows he has a quarterback who is struggling, whatever the reasons are. Goff is already a limited quarterback. He's not able to move around the pocket well, he can be timed with a sundial whenever he does run and he needs pristine pass protection to function anywhere near his best.
Johnson's work to get a good sample of Goff's best makes it interesting to consider what he could do with a quarterback who has legit all-around physical tools (Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, etc.). Goff is just not that guy.
Yes, Johnson needs to be better and not go into a play-calling shell like he does. But he has to work within his limits too. Right now, he has a struggling quarterback who has severe limitations even at their best.
The rest of the Lions' season will be important for Johnson to answer some questions teams who interview him for a head coaching job will have. But the current downturn in his stock as a head coaching candidate, such as it may even truly exist, is not all on him. His current quarterback is a big factor that can't be ignored.