At the conclusion of last season, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was in-demand for head coaching jobs. He interviewed with the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, but he never made it to a third in-person interview with the Carolina Panthers before taking himself out of consideration for any head coaching job and deciding to stay in Detroit. Johnson had interviewed remotely with the Panthers.
After dropping to 1-10 with a loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Panthers fired head coach Frank Reich Monday morning. Owner David Tepper started his statement announcing the move with a far more patronizing sentence than we usually see in these in-season firing situations.
"I met with Coach Reich this morning and informed him that he will not continue as head coach of the Carolina Panthers,"
Reich feels like the candidate Tepper settled for after Johnson decided not to even take an interview. Or maybe Reich was the only candidate who would take the job. The subsequent nugget from NFL Network's Tom Pelissero is not surprising regarding the Panthers and Johnson.
There is already a lot out there wondering why Johnson would want the Panthers job, especially when he pulled the plug on a second interview a year ago. But SI Jaguars' writer John Shipley summed it up best, so I'll highlight him.
Carolina Panthers will likely make another run at Ben Johnson, but will it be successful?
The Panthers are headed for earning the No. 1 overall pick in next April's draft. Except, they don't own the rights to the pick. The Chicago Bears do, via last offseason's trade that sent wide receiver D.J. Moore from Carolina to Chicago and sent the Panthers the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft from the Bears.
So the Panthers don't have the rights to that premium draft pick. The owner is a mix of impatient and incompetent when it comes to hiring the right people and not meddling in football business. Bryce Young does not look like an NFL-caliber quarterback right now, and Tepper may have pushed for his drafting over C.J. Stroud. The roster broadly lacks talent. It's worth wondering about the talent evaluation acumen and/or the job security of general manager Scott Fitterer. Other than that, it sounds like a very appealing head coaching job.
Johnson is an Asheville, North Carolina native, and a University of North Carolina alum. But those aren't good reasons to take a head coaching job, when the mess with the Panthers is what it is and whoever replaces Reich surely won't be allowed the time to fix it properly.
The Panthers will surely take another run at making Johnson their head coach, and money can talk in these situations. But the Lions offensive coordinator will have multiple options to take a head coaching job after this season, if he wants to entertain them. So the Panthers can try again, but it would be a shock if they actually got Johnson this time around.