NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported early Sunday morning that the Detroit Lions and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn are expected to part ways following the team’s last game of the season. Some Lions fans, including myself, may have expected this development. Lynn had his play-calling abilities stripped from him by head coach Dan Campbell following the team’s bye week, and the team’s offense improved under Campbell’s play-calling despite the first-year Lions HC having no prior play-calling experience. There were also reports that Lynn and quarterback Jared Goff had issues seeing eye to eye, though both parties denied those reports.
With Detroit set to once again look for an offensive coordinator, I figured we could look at some potential replacements for the former Los Angeles Chargers head coach. I have outlined five replacements for Lynn that could be under consideration for the Lions. These aren’t names that I’m married to or names I’m demanding the Lions look into. These are names that I think could work out well in Detroit. I’m open to hearing names not on this list. With all that said, let’s get into it, and we’ll start in-house.
1) Ben Johnson, Lions tight ends coach
Johnson has been with the Lions since 2019 when he first was hired as an offensive quality control coach. He became the tight ends coach under Matt Patricia a year later and kept that position when Campbell was brought in. The 35-year-old saw an increased role in coordinating the passing game after play-calling was taken from Lynn. He has been credited for designing some big plays in recent weeks, including Brock Wright’s touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13 and Kalif Raymond’s TD catch against the Denver Broncos.
Johnson and Campbell have a history, as they served on the Miami Dolphins coaching staff together from 2011 to 2015. Johnson was the assistant quarterbacks coach and tight ends coach when Campbell was the interim head coach in 2015. This history, on top of Campbell’s increasing trust in him, means Johnson has to be a name to monitor as the search for a new coordinator gets underway. And Campbell isn’t the only one who seems to trust Johnson.
“He’s had an incredible influence in the past month,” Jared Goff told the Karsch & Anderson Show nearly a month ago. “In my eyes, he’s a stud. He does a lot of great things. Ever since I got here, he’s been a guy that I can lean on and rely on with any sort of questions.”
With Goff potentially returning as the starting quarterback next season, it’s in Detroit’s best interest to find someone who Goff trusts and trusts in Goff. All indications point to Johnson checking both boxes. The question remains whether the Lions will look for an experienced play-caller or if they’re willing to take a chance on a first-year guy. Whatever the case, Lynn’s replacement may not be outside of the organization.
2) Mike Kafka, Chiefs quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator
Kafka has long been thought of as a future offensive coordinator in the NFL. He’s spent the last five years on the Chiefs coaching staff and has held his current positions the last two years. He also has garnered interest as a head coach. The Philadelphia Eagles interviewed him before deciding to hire Nick Sirianni. Whether he garners similar interest during this upcoming coaching carousel remains to be seen, but Kafka is a highly respected coach around the league.
The internal plan in Kansas City has been to promote Kafka to the offensive coordinator position once Eric Bieniemy got his shot as a head coach. Bieniemy hasn’t received that shot yet, and Kafka’s contract expires when the Chiefs season is over. This creates a bit of a dilemma: does Kafka remain with the Chiefs and wait for Bieniemy to get his shot, or does he take one of the open coordinating spots now? That’s where the Lions come into the fray.
While there is no connection between Campbell and Kafka, the Lions can offer him the ability to run an offense, which Kansas City can’t currently offer. If the Lions decide to draft one of the top signal-callers this year, Kafka has the opportunity to mold his quarterback. And with the draft picks the Lions have within these next two drafts, there will be a lot of young talent for Kafka to work with should the Lions bring him in.
3) Ronald Curry, Saints quarterbacks coach
Another potential candidate with connections to Campbell, Curry is in his first season as quarterbacks coach in NOLA. He has been with the Saints since 2016 when he was brought in as an offensive assistant before being promoted to wide receivers coach. Before that, he spent time with the San Francisco 49ers. Curry has had a tall task, coaching a position group lacking future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. The Saints aren’t world-beaters, but they enter play on Sunday needing a win and a 49ers loss to clinch a playoff spot.
Hiring Curry would be extremely similar to Campbell’s choice of Aaron Glenn to lead the defense. Campbell presumably knows Curry well from their time together under Sean Payton, making trust a non-issue. Curry’s had to work with four different starting QBs this year: Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book. Winston went on IR after seven games, but he was well on his way to a pleasant season in his first year as a starter following his 30 TD-30 INT season during his last year in Tampa Bay. Speaking of Tampa Bay, Curry’s Saints swept the Buccaneers this season and beat them with two different quarterbacks.
Curry may not be the most sought-after name right now, but he certainly is one to monitor given his connections to Campbell.
4) Pep Hamilton, Texans quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator
Hamilton was the first name I listed the last time I wrote an article like this, and I still believe he should be someone the Lions consider. This isn’t ranked in any order, so him being the fourth name mentioned this time is not a mark against him. Hamilton joined David Culley in Houston as QB coach after serving in the same role with the Chargers in 2020. The former XFL head coach should be a sought-after candidate once again this year.
Hamilton coached Justin Herbert during Herbert’s dynamic rookie season, where he set the record for most passing touchdowns for a rookie quarterback with 31. In Houston, he’s had decidedly less talent to work with, but he’s seemed to have worked his magic once again. Davis Mills, a third-round pick out of Stanford, has surpassed expectations in his 10 starts this season. Mills has both of Houston’s wins this season, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chargers. He’s thrown for over 300 yards three times and threw three TD passes against the New England Patriots. While Mills hasn’t been great, he’s done much better than anyone expected.
Hamilton has coordinating experience in the NFL, as he called offensive plays for the Indianapolis Colts from 2013 to 2015. If the Lions decide to go for a QB in the draft, Hamilton would be the perfect coordinator to develop him.
5) Ken Dorsey, Bills quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator
Dorsey has been connected to offensive coordinator jobs around the league in recent years. He was a candidate for the Lions job last year before Lynn’s hiring and was also involved in the running for the Seattle Seahawks job but ultimately didn’t get it. Despite a bit of a weird year for the Bills, Dorsey should still get looks from teams around the league for a coordinator position.
Dorsey has been credited with the development of signal-caller Josh Allen. Last season, Allen broke out with 37 passing TDs and eight rushing touchdowns. The Bills finished 13–3 and made the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1993. Allen enters play on Sunday with 34 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns and has a chance to clinch back-to-back division titles for Bills Mafia. In 2019, Dorsey helped Allen see the highest improvement in QB rating of any signal-caller in the league.
Before Buffalo, Dorsey spent time with the Carolina Panthers as their quarterbacks coach. He oversaw Cam Newton’s first four seasons in the NFL, including the Panthers’ run to the Super Bowl in 2015. Newton carried Carolina to a 15–1 finish, won the MVP and offensive player of the year awards, and set a career-high for passing touchdowns. It was Newton’s most prolific season, despite the loss to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Dorsey has a track record of developing QBs and having them perform at a high level. He will be a play-caller somewhere, and with the Lions set to select a young QB soon, Dorsey must be under consideration for this opening.
What names would you like to see the Lions consider? I’d love to hear any thoughts and feedback!
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Featured Photo Credit: Tony Ding/AP Photo