There’s a Curveball from Vikings’ Rival

Detroit Lions fans during action against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 at Ford Field. © Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The Detroit Lions won’t lose their high-profile offensive coordinator after all.

For a few months, NFL heads have said something of this effect regarding the Lions, “Well, they’ll lose Ben Johnson next offseason, so …”

There’s a Curveball from Vikings’ Rival

But that was false, and Johnson ain’t leavin’.

The Athletic‘s Dianna Russini tweeted Tuesday, “Ben Johnson has made the decision to stay in Detroit. For weeks this option was always on the table. The Commanders knew they weren’t a lock and have been operating with this information.”

The news was greeted with glee by Lions fans, as Johnson is considered the unadulterated architect of Detroit’s suddenly prolific offense. Playmakers Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Sam LaPorta, among others, were unleashed in 2023, even with a quarterback like Jared Goff, who was classified as wildly mediocre as early as two years ago.

Curveball from Vikings
Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson shakes hands with guard Kayode Awosika during warmups before the NFC divisional playoff game vs. the Buccaneers at Ford Field on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Initial reporting suggested the two teams left in the head coach sweepstakes — the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders — couldn’t afford Johnson’s asking price, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter swatted those theories away on Tuesday afternoon.

“Lions’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has two years remaining on his contract with Detroit. His deal was not adjusted to stay, per league source, proving that money is not Johnson’s biggest motivation. The Lions still could opt to adjust the contract down the line, but it’s not the reason that Johnson returned to Detroit today. Johnson is loyal,” Schefter assertively tweeted.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff passes against the Vikings during the second half of the Lions’ 34-23 win over the Vikings on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, at Ford Field. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Regardless of the reason, Detroit will now maintain continuity of offense. This will be crucial as the NFL watched the Philadelphia Eagles become reduced to rubble down the stretch of 2023 without their 2022 coordinators, Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon. Philadelphia’s collapse was so grand that head coach Nick Sirianni was on the hot seat for about 48 hours after his team lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wildcard Round.

Author Carlos Gil posted on the X app about Johnson’s reunion in Detroit, “Sticking with the Detroit Lions instead of taking a head coaching job is like choosing a unicycle for the Tour de France. Bold move, Ben. Let’s hope it’s not a ‘wheel’ big mistake!”

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson watches warm-up ahead of the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Lions ranked fifth leaguewide per offensive DVOA in 2023, climbing two spots from No. 7 in 2022. Incidentally, Johnson was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2022. The man evidently has the special sauce.

At the time of this article’s publication, the head coaching jobs in Seattle and Washington remained unfilled.

2nd Chances
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports.

Johnson will turn 38 in May. He’s one year younger than Vikings skipper Kevin O’Connell.

Detroit held a 24-7 lead in the 3rd Quarter of last weekend’s NFC Championship, about 90 minutes away from the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers later won 34-31, marking the largest meltdown in NFC Championship history.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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