Lions OC Ben Johnson reportedly returning to Detroit, won't pursue head-coaching job

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Ben Johnson is staying put.

The hot head-coaching candidate is turning down suitors and returning to his position as offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports. Johnson canceled plans to interview with the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday and informed the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans on Tuesday that he's staying in Detroit, per the report. He'd already interviewed for the latter two head-coaching vacancies.

Johnson is excited about what the Lions are building and wants to see it through next season, according to the report.

Johnson, 36, was promoted to offensive coordinator this season after two seasons as Detroit's tight ends coach. He oversaw one of the NFL's most surprising units as the Lions rallied from a 1-6 start to finish 9-8 and secure the franchise's first winning record since 2017. They were eliminated from the playoffs in Week 18 despite a victory over the Green Bay Packers that knocked their NFC North rivals out of the postseason.

Johnson is reportedly so confident in the Lions that he's willing to roll the dice on his head-coaching future. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Johnson is reportedly so confident in the Lions that he's willing to roll the dice on his head-coaching future. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

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 2022, with 26.6 points per game.

After being widely written off as a competitive NFL starter, quarterback Jared Goff experienced a career revival in his second season with the Lions following his arrival in 2021 via the Matthew Stafford trade. Goff averaged 6.6 yards per attempt and 231.8 yards per game while totaling 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 3-13-1 Lions team in 2021. This season, he averaged eight yards per attempt and 261.1 yards per game while tallying 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The dramatic turnaround was reminiscent of his early-career success with the Los Angeles Rams while playing for Sean McVay.

Also this season, Jamaal Williams broke Barry Sanders' franchise record with a league-leading 17 rushing touchdowns, and Amon-Ra St. Brown broke out in his second NFL season with 106 catches for 1,161 yards.

Success in the NFL is fleeting, and Johnson is rolling the dice on what looks like a legitimate shot to land a head-coaching position. But there's plenty to like about Detroit's future next season, enough so that Johnson decided it's worth the gamble.