The Washington Commanders are all systems go for head coaching candidate Ben Johnson after the Detroit Lions' championship collapse.
It seemed as if the Detroit Lions' fairytale was going to take them to a Super Bowl appearance. However, a second-half collapse against the San Francisco 49ers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
For the Washington Commanders, it opened a door.
With the Baltimore Ravens also eliminated from playoff contention, the Commanders can officially confirm their next head coach in the coming days. All shortlisted finalists left to be interviewed aside from Dan Quinn come from the two teams who fell at the final hurdle on Championship Sunday. This also includes Ben Johnson, who is seen as a frontrunner for the job.
Commanders can officially make Ben Johnson their head coach
Had the Lions maintained their momentum versus the Niners, it would have complicated matters. Any coach involved in postseason/Super Bowl engagements cannot confirm an appointment until the game concludes. They can speak to teams and agree to come on board, but nothing becomes public knowledge until their commitments with their current employer conclude.
The Commanders don't have to worry about that anymore. They've bided their time while other positions around the league get filled. There are just two openings remaining - the Seattle Seahawks have also adopted the patient approach. This is a good spot to be in with so many intriguing names still under consideration.
Bobby Slowik and Eric Bieniemy have also spoken in person to Washington's new regime led by majority ownership partner Josh Harris and general manager Adam Peters. The Commanders are being more thorough than at any stage during Dan Snyder's tenure. But all signs still point to Johnson when push comes to shove.
Some have labeled Johnson to the Commanders as a foregone conclusion. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and Adam Schefter of ESPN - widely regarded as the most plugged-in - remain adamant this race is wide open. Based on what they're hearing, every upcoming interviewee will be given a legitimate shot at winning the job.
Meetings are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday with Mike Macdonald, Anthony Weaver, Aaron Glenn, Johnson, and Dan Quinn. After that, a consensus opinion will be reached and the proverbial white smoke will emerge from Ashburn.
It would be a surprise Johnson wasn't the guy. Other potential suitors bowed out rapidly last week. This was a tell-tale sign that his representatives told them the progressive play-caller wasn't interested or had plans to go somewhere else.
Johnson's scripted plays versus the Niners were exceptional to open the contest. Things tailed off slightly in the second half, but this was more down to individual mistakes and poor situational football from head coach Dan Campbell than anything else. His blossoming reputation continues to flourish. He also looks like the ideal candidate to spearhead an exciting new era for the Commanders.
After a long, painstaking wait, the Commanders finally have NFL permission to strike. Something they've done with conviction already this offseason by convincing Peters to depart San Francisco and take on this ambitious project. If Harris can also acquire the league's hottest head coaching candidate in the same offseason - his first as owner - it would be nothing short of astonishing.
That time is fast approaching. Time to get excited, Commanders fans.
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