American Football

Open thread: Which coordinator is under more pressure to succeed?


NFL: Washington Commanders at Detroit Lions
Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions will need their coordinators to have a successful 2023 if they want to make the playoffs. Which coordinator is under more pressure to perform?

The 2023 Detroit Lions are slowly taking shape, and the image coming into focus is an exciting one. Growing expectations for the Lions also means more pressure on those in charge. Dan Campbell will surely look to take the next step in his head coaching career—a Coach of the Year nomination perhaps?—but his right-hand men will be under an equally scrutinous microscope.

Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn will look to turn 2023 into a successful campaign for the Lions after a near playoff berth the season prior. Both coordinators will face significant pressure this upcoming season, though for somewhat different reasons. The goal of any season is improvement, and the Lions certainly have room to do so, but the bar is set differently for the two coordinators.

Glenn has been considered an important vocal leader within the Lions coaching staff, an important role model for an otherwise young defense. Fresh off a contract extension, it seems like Glenn is the right man for the job in Detroit. That being said, the NFL is a results-based league, and Glenn’s on-field product has been lacking. The Lions defense has been ranked near the bottom in most categories during Glenn’s tenure as defensive coordinator. His presence on the team is certainly valuable, but at the end of the day, his job is to coordinate a defense—for the sake of job security, it needs to be a good one.

However, Glenn’s talent pool had been lacking in 2021 and 2022, but the pieces are in place for a far better unit in 2023. For one, the already promising youngsters will have another year under their belt. Yet the biggest news came from free agency, where general manager Brad Holmes spared no expense to bolster Glenn’s wheelhouse. Two starting-caliber cornerbacks in Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley were signed, while dynamic defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson was signed to bolster a secondary suddenly looking deep.

On one hand, Glenn finally has all he needs to put together a talented defense. Yet that also comes with added pressure: no more excuses. 2023 needs to be the year the Lions boast an above-average defense—at worst. If the defense falters again, is Glenn still the man for the job?

For Johnson, the offseason hype was through the roof. Johnson was a hot commodity on the head coaching market—a notable feat for a coach with one year as coordinator. Yet despite the potential to lead an NFL team, Johnson opted to return to the Lions for another year helming the offense.

The pressure on Johnson doesn’t come from a lack of success, but the opposite: too much success too quickly. The Lions offense was magical in 2022, and Johnson’s play calling was a key reason why. Quarterback Jared Goff had a career year thanks to an offense tailormade for him and the weapons around him. For Johnson’s first season as an offensive coordinator, you could not have asked for more.

Johnson’s second season will face serious expectations to not only match the 2022 success, but build upon it further. Johnson set the bar so high for himself that an offensive regression—a plausible outcome—would be viewed as a disappointment. The starting core of the offense remains largely unchanged, with the two biggest changes pre-draft coming from the addition of running back David Montgomery and departure of receiver DJ Chark. By all accounts, the Lions offense should be just as good as it was last season. Will Johnson be able to succeed under such pressure?

One Lions coordinator is under pressure to finally prove his defense can be great. Another is under pressure to match his breakout debut season.

Oh, we mustn’t forget about special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, whose unit has ranked among the league’s best in previous two seasons. Will a longsnapper battle and potential kicker battle, coupled with losing two special teams aces, disturb the chemistry? Special teams matter as well, folks.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Which coordinator is under more pressure to succeed?

My answer: Aaron Glenn.

I think there is a lot of pressure on Johnson in 2023 because the Lions offense was that good in 2022. Without an elite offense, the Lions aren’t even sniffing the playoffs. The Lions need another elite season from Johnson, and while it is certainly possible, the NFL is also really difficult. Defenses adjust after a year of tape, and the onus will be on Johnson to replenish his bag of tricks.

That being said, Glenn should be under the most pressure. Whereas a down season from the offense won’t cost Johnson his position, another poor defensive showing could prove problematic for Glenn. Especially when you consider the investment in the secondary this offseason, Glenn is in a prime position to succeed. Sure, the players have to execute the scheme, yet after three seasons as defensive coordinator, the pressure will be on Glenn to finally produce results.

Your turn.

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