Johnson picks 'sunshine' in Detroit to stay as OC



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ALLEN PARK, Mich. — While sitting on the plane ride home after losing the NFC Championship Game to the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson reflected on an analogy used by coach Dan Campbell to motivate the team near the end of the 2021 season.

During his first year as head coach, Campbell assured the team that the Caribbean was on the horizon for a Lions organization more used to being in the Arctic and avoiding icebergs. That belief is why Johnson opted to remain in Detroit for the second straight offseason despite serious head-coaching interest.

Though he didn’t receive an offer, Johnson had been set to meet with Washington Commanders officials before making his decision to remain in Detroit. Johnson interviewed with the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers.

“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, addressing his decision to return to Detroit. “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 said there is no doubt in his mind that he could be a head coach but that he loves what they have built in Detroit.

“I’m not gonna do it just to do it. I love what I’m doing right now. Love it,” Johnson said. “I love where I’m at. My family loves where we’re at. Love the people that we’re doing it with, so I’m not willing to go down the other path yet, unless I feel really good about how it’s gonna unfold.”

Campbell said he wasn’t completely caught off guard by Johnson’s decision to stay put. He said they have unfinished business after falling one game shy of reaching the Super Bowl.

“Am I surprised? No. Only because I wouldn’t have been surprised had he taken one too,” Campbell said. “I think he feels like it’s a good opportunity here and he wants to make the most of it, and if something else becomes available, it needs to be right. Everything needs to be right, and I appreciate that about him. Not everybody would do that.”

Detroit’s offense has become one of the best in the NFL since Johnson took over the full-time offensive coordinator role in 2022. He was named a finalist for Associated Press Assistant Coach of the Year last season after the Lions finished second in passing yards (4,401) and third in total offensive yards (6,712).

Johnson weighed the pros and cons of staying and leaving and went with his gut. He said he doesn’t feel like he has set himself back with the decision either.

“The longer you’re in the coordinator chair, it does nothing but help you and prepare you more for the next step if it ever comes down the pipe,” Johnson said. “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.”



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