Last year around this time, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was the favorite to be the new Carolina Panthers' head coach. As we know he pulled the plug on that interview, and chose to stay with the Lions at least one more year.
Going back to when Frank Reich was fired in the middle of the season, the Panthers have been expected to pursue Johnson again. The Washington Commanders were first in line to submit a request to interview Johnson, and the Los Angeles Chargers (as easily expected too) have also submitted a request to interview him for their head coaching job.
In concert with his report the Chargers had submitted a request interview Johnson (and Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn), NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported the Panthers have requested an interview.
Virtual head coaching interviews can not be done with assistant coaches who are in the playoffs until next week, with in-person interviews prohibited until the following week after the Divisional Round.
The Panthers head coaching job is less appealing now for Ben Johnson than it was a year ago
A year ago when Johnson did not go through with his Panthers' interview, they had whatever intrigue there was attached to being able to hand-pick a rookie quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. Owner David Tepper, among all the issues he has had, may have put his thumb on the scale for Bryce Young to be the pick over C.J. Stroud.
Albeit only one season in, the Panthers clearly made the wrong choice. Stroud is a top candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year for the Houston Texans, while Young struggled mightily this year. Carolina also does not have their first-round pick in April, and the roster is broadly full of holes.
For whatever that might be worth, the Panthers will also have a new general manager after firing Scott Fitterer. The request to interview Johnson, and several others, has come without a general manager in place and surely no one around Tepper who will remind him that Johnson rejected them a year ago.
Johnson-to-the-Panthers is a cute story, since he has roots in the Carolinas (University of North Carolina alum, etc.) and returning home may appeal to him. Maybe he takes an interview this time around, when it's allowed. But a job that may have looked bad a year ago looks worse now, and Johnson will have better options if he wants to entertain head coaching opportunities.