American Football

Panthers HC search: A quick look at Ben Johnson


Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The fast rising star is one of the hottest names around the league this year

The Carolina Panthers are clearly in the market for a young coach with a background on offense. Ben Johnson, the current offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions, fits that bill. Otherwise, however, there isn’t much else known about him.

Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and played his high school football at A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville North Carolina. He was walk on quarterback at UNC from 2004-2007, as well, so he has the Carolina connection down.

He entered the NFL in 2012 as an offensive assistant for the Miami Dolphins and bounced around that organization as an assistant quarterbacks coach (2013-2015), tight ends coach (2015), assistant wide receivers coach (2016-2017), and wide receivers coach (2018). He then moved to the Lions with Dan Cambell as an offensive quality control coach (2019), tight ends coach (2020-2021), and offensive coordinator (2022).

He has had a swift rise from some of the less sexy coaching jobs in the NFL and earned near universal respect along the way. You won’t find a list of head coach candidates for the 2023 carousel that doesn’t feature his name alongside Shane Steichen and Ken Dorsey.

The biggest knock on Johnson is that he hasn’t had the same success that Steichen or Dorsey have had. His resume is better sold in the way that Steve Wilks is currently being sold, in a “look at all that I did with what little I had” light.

The what he did was actually impressive compared to the what he had. Johnson coordinated a top five offense in Detroit in terms of points and yards per game, despite being only 12th in the league in plays per game. His passing game, with much-maligned Jared Goff at quarterback, was sixth in the league in both yards and yards per attempt. His rushing attack finished just behind the Panthers (10th, 2,210 yards) at 11th in the league with 2,179 yards gained and had 23 rushing touchdowns against Carolina’s 16. Detroit finished 14th in the league on third down conversions (40.8%) and 4th in the league at scoring touchdowns in the red zone (66.2%).

Johnson may well have the best chicken salad chef resume of the offensive minded coaches on the Panthers interview list. Lack of head coaching experience at any level is his biggest drawback against Wilks, who is the only other candidate on the Panthers list recently tasked with performing with an unstable quarterback situation.

Sound off in the comments, guys. Do you want Johnson as the Panthers next head coach?

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