Ben Johnson comments prove Carolina Panthers never stood a chance

The Carolina Panthers did not meet Ben Johnson's criteria.
Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Carolina Panthers are moving forward with Dave Canales as their head coach. It's a gamble considering his lack of play-calling experience, but his previous credentials working with struggling quarterbacks tipped the scales after Bryce Young's disastrous rookie campaign in 2023.

Canales' appointment was seen by many as a consolation prize. The Panthers weren't an attractive destination thanks to their woeful efforts during the previous season and team owner David Tepper's erratic behavior. That's not to say the enthusiastic coach isn't qualified, it's more a case of Carolina settling to a certain extent after those with alternative options looked elsewhere.

It's no secret that Tepper was keen to make Ben Johnson their next head coach over two consecutive offseasons. The Detroit Lions offensive coordinator is held in the highest regard and looked like a shoo-in to get a top job somewhere. In a shocking turn of events, he opted to remain with his current employers.

Carolina Panthers were never a viable destination for Ben Johnson

The Panthers went away from Johnson way before he informed the Washington Commanders he wasn't interested while they were en route to meet him in Detroit. He handled that situation terribly, but the play-caller had his reasons.

Johnson explained in greater detail why he spurned multiple advances once again during his recent media availability. He is looking for the right fit with a team that has everything in place to thrive based on comments via CBS Sports. That's a lot to ask, especially considering those looking for new head coaches have some significant tweaks to make more often than not.

"If I get the opportunity to go down that road it's about how do I get to that second contract. How do I set myself up? The stars need to align. I'm not going to do it just to do it. I love what I'm doing right now. Love it. I love where I'm at. My family loves where we're at. Love the people that we're doing it with. So, I'm not willing to go down the other path yet unless I feel really good about how it's going to unfold. It's ownership, it's staff, it's my vision of how I can make it work with how I know I am."

Ben Johnson via CBS Sports

These statements lend further weight to the claims Carolina was never seriously in the running for Johnson this time around. Tepper's reputation for firing head coaches precedes him. Johnson was not going to bet his reputation on the billionaire seeing the light and giving him time to turn this franchise around.

Some have speculated whether Johnson has the leadership qualities to take that next step. If he's waiting for everything to be perfect somewhere, he'll be out of luck. And at the end of the day, there's only so many times that teams around the league can be told no before his opportunity goes for good.

Hopefully, Canales can provide some much-needed stability to the Panthers. Tepper seems to be staying out of the way for now, which is a step in the right direction. The new head coach and general manager Dan Morgan have a long-term plan in place for sustained growth. While it's another positive, it needs patience attached.

If Canales thrives, Carolina's pursuit of Johnson becomes a distant memory. That's the best-case scenario for an organization in desperate need of inspiration after so long in the proverbial wilderness.

And who knows, Johnson might be kicking himself when it's all said and done. Stranger things have happened where the NFL is concerned.