Detroit Lions: Why did Ben Johnson stay?
Ben Johnson announced on Tuesday (1/30) that he has decided to stay in Detroit as their offensive coordinator for at least another year. The decision was a surprise as it seemed both the Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks were waiting to make their final decision based on his wishes. The decision to stay seems to come as a relief to the Detroit fan base, not only because of the success he has seen, but with the continuity that it gives to an organization that has seemed to be plagued with turnovers over the past few decades.
According to pro football focus, the Lions offense ranked 2nd overall this year. They were 5th in overall scoring offense, averaging 27.3 points per game. Detroit overaged roughly 134 yards per game on the ground this year, while averaging just under 260 yards through the air.
The negatives – the home and away split in production. Detroit averaged 29 points per game at home, while only averaging 24.8 away. Rush yards weren’t necessarily an issue (they actually averaged 8 more yards on the ground away), but averaged about 20 less yards passing.
Some would wonder why such a large scoring split difference, almost 5 points, between home and away games. At first you might think “Detroit plays in a dome, that has to be why?” But of the 8 games away they played at Los Angeles, at New Orleans, at Minnesota, and at Dallas which are all indoor/dome.
Following the news, many Detroit Lions players came out in support of Ben Johnson staying. AmonRa St. Brown came out on his podcast & described his excitement from the call he received.
“I was like, ‘He’s probably staying, but I was like 90% sure he was staying but not 100% sure,'” Amon-Ra said. “I texted Jared and I was like, ‘Ben just called me, he said he’s staying.’
I think the feeling of excitement, especially after the loss within the divisional game is exciting. It is good to feel good about something. But I wonder about the timing of it all. Only Seattle & Washington had decisions to be made on their head coach, one of those franchises was locked into a mid-tier quarterback, while the other will more than likely be drafting the 3rd best quarterback prospect out of this year’s draft (Washington holds the 3rd overall pick).
Maybe the timing made the decision easier, or maybe it was the money. Varying reports are being leaked about the amount Ben Johnson was asking – rumor has it around 15 million per year. Some think that David Tepper, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, offered large amounts last year to try and pull him towards the Panthers. The thought would be during this new hiring cycle he was looking for similar money.
Another frame of mind could be the teams available during this NFL Offseason. There were reports of Ben Johnson interviewing for head coaching vacancies for the Chargers, the Falcons, and the Panthers (besides the two teams previously mentioned, Seahawks & Commanders). According to Adam Schefter “Johnson had also interviewed for the head-coaching vacancies with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers before those jobs were filled by Raheem Morris, Dave Canales and Jim Harbaugh, respectively.”
With the LA Chargers seemingly having Jim Harbaugh locked in as their top candidate, maybe Johnson didn’t find these teams as appealing as some may think. If you look at the NFL head coaching broad scope, some people would guess Matt Eberflus of the Chicago Bears, Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys (expiring contract after the 2024 season), or Nick Siriani of the Philadelphia Eagles may be on a short leash going into next season, just to name a few.
Nothing is concrete, and this is all speculation, but if you take a step back & look, these all might be factors as to why Ben Johnson decided to stay.
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