Ben Johnson bursts Commanders' bubble with veiled swipe

This explains a lot...
Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

It seemed for a long time as if Ben Johnson was a shoo-in to become the new Washington Commanders' head coach. He was the odds-on favorite with sportsbooks across the country. Other teams went in different directions with the growing belief that the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator was poised for a switch to the nation's capital.

Things didn't turn out that way.

Influential figures within the organization were around 30,000 feet in the air en route to Detroit for a second interview with Johnson when the play-caller informed them he was no longer interested. This came as a shock and forced those in power to pivot.

Dan Quinn was always high on their shortlist, but many in the media believed Johnson to be their No. 1 choice. After months of silence, we now know why he spurned their advances.

Ben Johnson wasn't convinced by the Commanders

When speaking to the media during the Lions' organized team activities, Johnson revealed the reasons behind not taking the Commanders or any other head coaching opportunity this offseason. This centered on not being entirely convinced he could attain success with any interested party and wanting to see out the project in Detroit after they made the NFC conference title game in 2023.

"I'm not willing to go down the other path yet unless I feel really good about how it's gonna unfold."

Ben Johnson via X (formerly Twitter)

Talk about bursting a bubble in one veiled swipe.

This was the clearest sign yet that the Commanders didn't sell their project effectively enough to Johnson. Despite the impressive changes made throughout the offseason, there was a seed of doubt in the coordinator's mind that prevented him from taking the plunge.

Many speculated after the refusal that Johnson didn't display the leadership credentials Washington was looking for in their next head coach following Ron Rivera's expected departure. Whether they were trying to save face or not is moot. What's important is turning the page and proving their doubters wrong.

The Commanders appear highly confident Quinn can take them forward positively. He's highly respected in the locker room and around the league. He also managed to utilize his contacts effectively by forming an accomplished coaching staff to assist every step of the way.

That's always a solid foundation from which to build. A few are doubting Quinn's chances of maximizing this second head coaching opportunity. Others are going one step further, proclaiming he could be one-and-done unless significant improvements arrive.

While things would have to go pretty poorly for the Commanders to dispose of Quinn so early into his tenure, it would vindicate Johnson's decision. But if things go according to or better than expected, he could be left with a huge sense of regret after spurning such an incredible chance to wake one of the NFL's sleeping giants.

There's no point in the Commanders harboring any resentment towards Johnson. They made their pitch and it didn't work out for one reason or another. These things happen.

Although disappointing to some fans, Quinn is more than qualified. He's been to a Super Bowl and is one of the most innovative defensive minds of the modern era. More importantly, he's restored a sense of enthusiasm and collective purpose that evaporated quickly under Rivera's watch.

Johnson might not agree, but the Commanders are building something special. When it's all said and done, he could be casting envious glances toward Quinn if everything clicks into place.