Source: Johnson tells Lions he’ll return as OC

DETROIT — After experiencing the first winning season in the Motor City since 2017, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has informed the team that he’ll return for the 2023 season, a league source confirmed to ESPN’s David Newton on Tuesday night.

Johnson had received serious interest for multiple head-coaching vacancies after the Lions’ offense ranked fifth in the league in points scored (25.71) during his first full season as its coordinator.

He had interviewed for the top jobs with the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, both teams previously announced, and was scheduled to meet with the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday in Charlotte.

Johnson, 36, opted to stay in Detroit because he believes the Lions are on the cusp of building something special and he didn’t want to leave one year into the job, the source told Newton.

Ahead of the season finale, Johnson refused to comment on how he would approach any head-coaching opportunities in the offseason.

“We’re looking to beat the Packers,” Johnson said during a Jan. 5 practice. “Yeah. Not talking about that.”

Lions coach Dan Campbell often has lauded Johnson for his creative playcalling ability and overall rapport with the team. Campbell said he views him as a potential head coach in the league but didn’t want to lose him from his coaching staff, either.

“He would be worthy of that. I think a ton of Ben,” Campbell said earlier this month. “I’ve said it before, I just think he’s extremely bright. He’s creative, he’s organized, he’s a great communicator. I mean he’s got it, and I would do anything I can to help him. That’s the bottom line. Of course, I don’t want to lose him, but I’m not going to hold him back either. I would help him any way I can help him.”

Prior to be named Detroit’s offensive coordinator, Johnson spent three seasons in the Lions organization as the tight ends and offensive quality control coach.

Johnson is the second Carolina candidate to cancel an interview. The other was Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who decided to remain in New England. The Panthers also decided not to move forward with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans because of logistics, a source told Newton.

The Panthers already have interviewed former Lions coach Jim Caldwell, former Colts coach Frank Reich, interim Panthers coach Steve Wilks and Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. They are scheduled to meet with former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on Friday in New York City.

NFL Network was the first to report the news that Johnson is returning to the Lions.

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