The hottest NFL head coaching candidate is officially off the board.
On Tuesday, Ben Johnson informed the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders that he’d be returning to the Detroit Lions for his third season as the team’s offensive coordinator. This is a huge win for the Lions, who fell just short of their first Super Bowl appearance after falling to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Johnson, one of the brightest young minds in the NFL, passed on head coaching opportunities last offseason, opting to return to Detroit, and has done so again a year later. Below are some ramifications of what Johnson’s return means moving forward for the Lions in 2024 and beyond.
Ben Johnson, Lions Running It Back In 2024
The reason for Johnson’s return in 2023 was to “continue building something special in Detroit.” The team undoubtedly accomplished that this season.
The Lions won their first division title and playoff game(s) in over three decades and appeared in a conference championship game for just the second time in the Super Bowl era. Detroit ultimately fell short of its goal of winning the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy, but Johnson’s return suggests that he and the rest of the organization feel they have unfinished business to attend to. The Lions were 30 minutes away from appearing in their first-ever Super Bowl, and it took an epic second-half meltdown to keep them out of The Big Game. With Johnson coming back, the offense should pick up from where it left off in 2023 and be one of the league’s top units again next season.
Aggressive in Free Agency and the Draft
Detroit enjoyed its best season in franchise history, winning a franchise-best 14 games and setting many records in the process. The offense was the engine that made the Lions go, but the defense was disappointing again.
With Johnson back for another season, the offense should remain intact for the most part. The players match the personnel and with Pro Bowl rookies like Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta entering their second seasons, the Lions could see even bigger returns from their young studs. To get over the hump, though, the defensive side of the ball needs to be addressed in free agency and the draft. With multiple players set to be free agents or cap casualties, general manager Brad Holmes will be tasked with revamping the secondary and defensive line. Detroit allowed 257.0 yards per game through the air, which ranked 31st in the NFL, and struggled to sack the quarterback, finishing in the bottom five in that category. With over $60 million in cap space and three picks in the top 73 of April’s draft, Holmes will have plenty of opportunities to improve that side of the ball.
Jared Goff Extension?
The Lions signal-caller is set to become a free agent in 2025, but there have been reports of mutual interest in a long-term marriage between Jared Goff and the organization for months. With Johnson set to return in 2024 (and potentially beyond), those extension talks could start heating up.
Since arriving in Detroit in 2021, Goff has revived his career and enjoyed some of his best seasons while working with Johnson, making the Pro Bowl in 2022 while nearing the top of every statistical category the past two years. With the Lions set to have an “all in” approach in 2024, the first order of business should be to lock up Goff for the foreseeable future. The last thing he or the organization needs is going into an important year with questions about his future being unanswered. As head coach Dan Campbell said after Goff led the Lions to their first playoff win in 32 years, he’s good enough for Detroit, and it’s time for Holmes to ensure he’ll be leading the Lions for years to come.
After a fulfilling, yet disappointing season in Detroit, the Lions will be a force to be reckoned with come next Fall. They’ll be one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LIX, and Johnson’s return is a major reason why. Now, it’s time to go all in.
Main Image: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK