Lions OC Ben Johnson fine with waiting for right situation when it comes to NFL head-coaching job

Johnson was one of the NFL's top coaching prospects this offseason.

When Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson decided to stay put and not pursue open head coaching jobs around the NFL, it was surprise to many in the NFL world.

The Lions had just reached the NFC championship game — the first time the franchise won a playoff game since 1991 — and there was confidence that what head coach Dan Campbell was building would eventually deliver success.

After finishing in the bottom third of the NFL in points and yards per game in 2021, the Lions were the fifth-highest scoring team in football in 2023, with 27.1 points per game. That production made Johnson one of the league's hottest coaching prospects.

Despite interviewing with several teams, including the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers, as well as having a meeting scheduled with the Washington Commanders, Johnson, 36, said he just liked "the sunshine."

"I think when it boils down to it, I want the sun to shine a little bit longer. That's really what it comes down for me," Johnson said Thursday. "I like the sunshine. I like what we've built here, starting with ownership, the head coach and the GM on down.

"We have a great group of guys in the locker room, and I want to reap the rewards with them a little bit longer."

Johnson reportedly told the Commanders he was no longer interested as team officials were on a plane en route to Michigan to meet.

Ben Johnson, offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions, looks on during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Taking that next step going from a coordinator to a head coach requires faith in a number of categories, like ownership, staff and the roster. Johnson was not going to take a head coaching job just because it was available, even though there are only 32 in the league.

Also, Johnson wanted to ensure if he landed a job, he would have the resources available to be in place beyond a few seasons.

"Something that really resonates with me is, okay, eight openings this past year," Johnson said. "What would you set the over/under in three years, how many still have jobs? I'd put the over/under at four-and-a-half. I would say there's a good chance five of them are out of jobs in three years.

"When I look at it from that perspective, if I get the opportunity to go down that road, it's about how do I get to that second contract, how do I set myself up. The stars need to align. ... I'm not willing to go down the other path yet unless I feel really good about how it's going to unfold."

In Johnson's view, there is no downside to spending more time in the NFL as a coordinator. He feels as if he's gaining valuable experience now and will be better prepared if and when he decides to seek out a head coaching job, whether that's next offseason or beyond.

"Personally, I don't feel like I'm hurting my opportunities or my abilities to be a head coach in the future, and I love what I'm doing right now," Johnson said.