The NFL adjusted the rules when it comes to head coaching interview for coaches whose team is still in the playoffs this year, allowing only virtual interviews during the week between the Wild Card and Divisional rounds.
As expected, Detroit Lions' coordinators Ben Johnson and Aaron Glenn had full dance cards on Friday and Saturday are preparation for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On Sunday morning, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported the Atlanta Falcons still hoped to talk to Johnson if the Lions beat the Buccaneers. That seemed like a distinction without a difference, in terms of whether the Lions won or not and that being necessary to interview Johnson.
Despite easy concerns and some ups and downs in the game, Johnson did not seem distracted by all the head coaching interest he has gotten. He surely knew the Falcons wanted to talk to him after the game.
Ben Johnson indeed did a head coaching interview after Sunday's win
Later on Sunday, Pelissero added that the Falcons did indeed do a virtual interview with Johnson on Sunday night. Pelissero also revealed a deadline the Falcons had to meet, should the Lions go to the Super Bowl and they want to have a second interview with him.
The Falcons also formally announced the interview with Johnson themselves on Sunday night.
For all the flaws in a process that makes it hard for coaches who are alive in the playoffs to do head coaching interviews, a big one seems to be the one Pelissero mentioned. If the Falcons wanted to have a second (in-person) interview with Johnson, during the week between the conference title game and the Super Bowl if the Lions win again, they had to do a virtual interview by Sunday night.
That said, Johnson didn't have to take the interview with the Falcons. But with all the other interviews he had already done, it didn't make sense to draw a line there and not take that meeting as Atlanta needed to beat some meaningless "deadline."