JANUARY 29: In an update on where the Commanders’ search stands, Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports confirms Johnson is currently seen as the favorite to be hired. Other candidates like Dan Quinn (Cowboys) and Mike Macdonald (Ravens) are still in the running, though that is also the case for both defensive coordinators as it pertains to the Seahawks’ opening. With the Lions having been eliminated last night, Johnson is free to speak with and accept an offer from Washington or Seattle at any time.
JANUARY 27: Ben Johnson entered the 2023 season having generated head coaching interest after only one year as the Lions’ offensive coordinator. His work this campaign has confirmed his status as one of the most sought-after staffers in the league, and signs continue to point him to the nation’s capital in the near future.
Johnson was reported earlier this month to be the top target for both the Panthers and Commanders. In Carolina’s case in particular, that came as no surprise. Panthers owner David Tepper made a concerted effort to land him during last year’s hiring cycle, and he was expected to deliver another strong push this offseason. Ultimately, though, Carolina elected to bring in Dave Canales after his one-year OC stint with the Buccaneers.
Once the Commanders tapped Adam Peters as their new GM, Johnson was named as a candidate to watch as the new head coach to pair with him. The latter has upped his stock considerably during his two-year run at the helm of Detroit’s offense, and the unit has played a central role in the team’s run to the NFC title game. Once the Lions’ postseason journey ends, as Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline writes, the expectation around the league remains that Johnson will be hired by the Commanders.
Teams still in contention for the Super Bowl are prohibited from having their coordinators take part in head coaching interviews during the week leading up to the conference championship games. Washington’s second interview with Johnson will therefore not take place until Detroit’s season comes to an end. The Commanders – who are joined by the Seahawks in having the league’s only remaining HC vacancies – are prepared to wait for Sunday’s games to take place before making their respective hires.
Commanders owner Josh Harris made the expected move of dismissing Ron Rivera on Black Monday, and his hand-picked committee moved quickly in landing on Peters to serve as general manager. The latter will directly oversee the team’s new head coach, a departure from the organizational structure in place during Rivera’s tenure. Johnson will be a rookie head coach if/when he is hired this year, though the same is also true of Peters after his decision to depart his AGM gig with the 49ers.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has also drawn considerable interest during this year’s cycle, and he too has a second Commanders interview lined up. Johnson is joined by Texans OC Bobby Slowik in terms of staffers with an offensive background who have drawn significant interest this year, and both have met once with the Seahawks. Seattle does not have a second meeting with Johnson on the books, however, leaving his connection with Washington something to watch closely in the coming days.