The 'basketball guy' in Commanders' ownership Ben Johnson 'called out' might be obvious

Ben Johnson apparently shrugged off Commanders' ownership as 'basketball guys', which may be where the subsequent media slander of him had its roots.

/ Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was the front runner to be the next Washington Commanders' head coach, until he wasn't as ESPN's Adam Schefter put a kibosh on that.

Then Johnson took himself out of the running for the remaining head coaching openings after the Lions' loss in the NFC Championship. The Commanders followed with a concerted effort to slander Johnson through the media, with Schefter and others as their water carriers.

Johnson's side of the story sort of came out in his defense, with ESPN's Jenna Laine (who covers the Buccaneers) reporting that Johnson was "turned off" by Commanders' ownership.

According to Laine Johnson called Washington's ownership, fairly or not, "basketball guys" who were "a little too confident in their football opinions."

New Commanders' owners Josh Harris also owns the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, so he fits the bill as a "basketball guy". Former Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers was also part of an advisory committee Harris put together to find new organizational leadership, and he definitely fits the "basketball guy" bill.

The top 'basketball guy' in Commanders' ownership that Ben Johnson seemed to call out may be obvious

The Las Vegas Raiders had Kliff Kingsbury as their new offensive coordinator. Until they didn't, and he took the same post with the Commanders. It's been out there that Kingsbury's contract with Washington has one more year on it then his deal with the Raiders would have, which is an understandable reason to quickly pivot before being locked into anything.

On Feb. 5, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Magic Johnson, who is a Commanders' minority owner, had convinced Kingsbury that Washington was a better fit for him. Kingsbury of course won't acknowledge that, but Raiders' head coach Antonio Pierce did.

Magic Johnson has had great business success in his post-playing career. His personality is certainly a valuable recruiting tool for the Commanders, in all capacities. But there could be a slippery slope there if, as Ben Johnson seemed to describe it via Laine's report, someone is "a little too confident in their football opinions."

Ben Johnson is also clearly a reserved personality, in direct contrast to Magic Johnson. The Commanders made sure to use that reserved personality trait against him in the article from The Athletic that ripped him over and over.

"He (Ben Johnson) is considered a coach who prefers holing up in his office, coming up with game plans and playing with mad scientist vibes rather than leading a locker room."

Ultimately, for reasons on both sides, the Commanders and Ben Johnson were not a fit.

That doesn't excuse the Commanders' subsequent slander of Ben Johnson though, with willing media mouthpieces to do it for them. The root of that negative PR campaign, as cover for not being able to close a deal that at one point seemed like a formality, may not be so hidden with the benefit of a little hindsight.

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