On Tuesday, before he was set to have an in-person interview with the Washington Commanders, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson told the Commanders and the Seattle Seahawks (the other team with a head coaching opening) he was staying put.
Johnson, before an scheduled interview with the Carolina Panthers the next day, took himself out of consideration for head coaching openings a year ago.
As the Lions' postseason run kept going and jobs were filled this year, the idea he'd stay again became palatable. He was the perceived favorite for the Commanders' job, but that perception changed very quickly. The biggest sign of that was how the Commanders kept going in their head coaching search once Johnson was available to be hired.
The Lions now have a one-year window to capitalize on Ben Johnson's decision to return
Johnson is again pushing off taking a head coaching job, which is his prerogative no matter what his reasons are and whether everyone fully understands them. The football reason is "unfinished business" in Detroit after the NFC Championship Game loss. The relationships he has with Dan Campbell and Jared Goff are a tentacle of that.
ESPN's Adam Schefter added an anecdote about Johnson's decision. Having two years left on his contract will not be what keeps him taking a head coaching job in 2025.
But Johnson is in line to be a top head coaching candidate again a year from now, and he's only 37 years old (38 in May). He may have done a little damage to his future prospects by apparently telling the Commanders when they were in-flight to Detroit, but Johnson handled his situation better than others have in the past. He didn't bail on the day of the introductory press conference, or one day after the news was made public via a note on a cocktail napkin.
The Lions are well in line to be good again next season. That's not news. After the NFC title game loss Campbell immediately expressed how hard it would be to get back to that spot, and keep everyone in the fold. That sort of felt like an acknowledgement Johnson could be gone this week, and that didn't happen.
Around a year from now, Johnson could very well be at a podium in (name location) being announced as the next head coach of the (insert team). The odds seem pretty good that will happen.
So the Lions now have a one-year window to take advantage of Johnson's decision to stay. All-in for next season is hard to say with such a young roster, but Johnson postponing his head coaching future again is as all-in as it can get in his situation and that will surely resonate with the entire team.