Lions promoting Ben Johnson to offensive coordinator

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

After considering other options the past couple of weeks, the Detroit Lions decided to stay in-house with the team's offensive coordinator vacancy, promoting tight ends coach Ben Johnson to the role, a source confirmed to The Detroit News on Monday night. 

Johnson had been the presumed front-runner after the team parted ways with Anthony Lynn the day after the season ended. When coach Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties from Lynn midseason, Johnson was simultaneously elevated to the team's pass-game coordinator, drawing rave reviews for his contributions to the game plan, as well as individual play design. 

"I've been impressed with Ben from Day 1," Lions quarterback coach Mark Brunell said in December. "He has a lot of experience. He's been coaching in the NFL for 10 years. Still young — 35 years old —  and he's been around a lot. I've learned a lot from Ben, and not just since the last couple weeks or whatever, but since the day I stepped foot on this facility. I've learned a lot from him as far as offensive football, passing game, coaching, and he's been around some good coaches. I'm fortunate that I get to be around him."

Last week, the Lions had the opportunity to see Johnson work as a coordinator in a trial capacity at the Senior Bowl, where he led the offense and called plays for the American squad, coached by the Lions. 

"It doesn't matter if you're a quality-control coach or wherever you are on the ladder, you're getting evaluated every day," Johnson said last week. "That's as a coach and  player. So I've treated it the same as I've always treated every day I go into the office. Eyes are on me, I need to do my job, I owe that to co-workers, I owe that to the players, and you let the chips fall where they may from there. But I haven't really wavered from that in my career so far, and this is just another step in that process." 

A walk-on quarterback for the University of North Carolina, Johnson graduated in 2008 with degrees in mathematics and computer science. He immediate entered coaching, working three years at Boston College before joining the Miami Dolphins in 2012. 

Johnson spent seven years with the Dolphins, starting as an offensive assistant, before moving to assistant quarterbacks coach and finally leading the wide receiver room. He also overlapped with Lions coach Dan Campbell, who was with the franchise from 2010-15. 

Johnson came to the Lions in 2019, initially as a quality-control coach before getting promoted to work with the tight ends in 2020. He was one of just a small number of assistant coaches retained when Campbell was hired last January. 

It remains unclear whether Johnson will take over or have a bigger role in play calling for the Lions in 2022. Campbell has been methodically weighing whether to keep the duties after the offense made positive strides with him at the helm for the second half of last season. 

Following Campbell taking over play calling, the Lions averaged 4.2 more points per game the final nine contests, despite quarterback Jared Goff, Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D'Andre Swift all missing multiple games. Most importantly, the Lions went 3-5-1 during the stretch after going winless the first eight games.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers